Dear Annie: I've been married for almost 20 years, and for all of those years, my in-laws have ruined my holiday season. From the very beginning, I've tried really hard to be gracious, kind and generous. These are all of the attributes that my mother (now deceased) always told me that family is about. I come from a big close-knit family. We all share and contribute not only to family events but also to help one another out in general. Not my in-laws. My husband and I have hosted or paid for every single meal we've had with them. In fact, they don't call us unless they need something.
My husband has been very protective of my feelings. He is so disgusted by the way they treat all of us that he would like to just cut them off. I can't do it. I keep hearing my mom telling me that this is his family. I think he would regret it later, and I don't want to be the cause.
Let me tell you what a holiday meal is like. I cook all of the food. They come without contributing anything and then take home all of the leftovers (which they actually fight over sometimes). They lie around and watch TV until it's time to go home. They don't talk to my kids or me. In fact, they couldn't care less about anything that is happening with my family. Did I also mention that my brother-in-law and his wife guilt my husband into helping financially every month?
After 20 years of this, I can't stand the sight of them. Knowing that I have to be cordial and expend all of my energy cooking for them spoils my whole holiday season. I just want to run away, but my kids love Christmas with the family. Help me. How do I cope? I want to have a nice Christmas, not one that is filled with anger and resentment. Is there a way to do that, or am I doomed to let them ruin my Christmas? — Bah Humbug
Dear Bah Humbug: I commend your mother for instilling in you the importance of grace, kindness and generosity. But it's hard to feel gracious, kind or generous when you're too busy feeling resentful. So you have two options. You can keep the celebration cozy, with just you, your husband and your children. There is nothing wrong with doing this, and I encourage you to give it a shot.
If you can't bring yourself to change your plans, then change your attitude. Channel the Whoville spirit. Make your mind up to have a delightful time no matter how frightful your in-laws' behavior. The main takeaway here is that whether or not your holiday is "doomed" is entirely up to you.
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