A frustrated reader with outspoken in-laws turns to ‘Dear Dad’ for advice on how to gain control at her next dinner party.
I have a question that is going to stump you. I was raised to respect my elders, and to grin and bear anything for the sake of keeping others comfortable, especially when they are guests in my home. My husband and I are both liberal Democrats and politics are important to us, but aside from voting and following the news and elections it ends there. My in laws, however, are die hard conservative Republicans and have something to say on everything from abortion, to gay rights, to illegal immigration, to any type of entitlement “lazy bums” think they are entitled to!
My father in law is the worst. He arrives at my home and starts spewing off news stories like he was a ticker on Fox news and does this in front of my young children. My husband knows it bothers me, but what he doesn’t know is that I am about to go off on them! They came to dinner last week and started talking about the next presidential run and going off on what a moron Hilary Clinton is and how “only a woman would have 30,000 personal emails to delete as the secretary of state.”
I don’t want to rock the boat, but what do I do? I don’t think I can sit through one more minute, never mind this Sunday’s dinner with these people!! I love them, but what do I do?
Dear ‘Did Not Stump Me’,
I, too, have in laws and outspoken family and friends and I assure you did not stump me, and I hope I can help you. I also frequently host dinner parties which are both co-worker, friend, and family attended. My first rule of thumb as a host: I never allow political, religious, or money talk. I have mastered the art of changing subjects when something controversial comes up, and pat myself on the back with my ability to keep the evening flowing in a peaceful and enjoyable way. When it comes to family, however, it is a whole different beast.
I, too, was raised to make sure those around me are comfortable while hosting a party, even if it is just dinner with my mom. My way of dealing with outspoken opinions with family is to cordially respect what someone is saying, and revert to my “change the subject super powers” as needed. When one crosses the line into ‘newsfeed banter’, however, I approach my wife and we discuss how to put the kibosh on things immediately.
We, too, have a family member (or four) who says things they should not be saying in front of seven year old children and discusses subjects that cross the line to inappropriate. We have confronted these family members gently and advised them that certain current events are not part of the curriculum for our children, and that while we respect his/her opinions, we would like to reserve these types of discussions for when the children are sleeping, or when our hearing has completely failed. HA! So, maybe not that last part, but the point is we are direct, even when sometimes it feels uncomfortable to confront them.
My advice is for you and your husband to confront your in laws about this subject and communicate how you are feeling. I think setting boundaries is especially important when these conversations are taking place in your own home. Yes, they are your elders, but that is your home and they are your rules.
You should never, even as host, be made to feel uncomfortable in your own home. You also have a right to communicate these feelings in their home because you are being a good parent setting boundaries. Why should anyone be discussing certain current events around small children? They should not be, it is inappropriate!
I send you good thoughts and energy, as you are going to go through something uncomfortable. I want you to ask yourself, ‘Did Not Stump Me’, at the end of the day: do you want to have one uncomfortable conversation with your in laws, or experience a lifetime of what you have been enduring?
We all have that outspoken friend or family member who takes things too far during normal conversation, or even on their social media accounts. How do you deal with the outspoken in your life?