I must avoid holiday with my husband’s awful family
If you want to get out of the annual holiday in the US with your husband’s family, you must speak up now
All set: there will come a time when that American holiday works for you again, but it is not now. Meanwhile the older children might love to go and stay with their American family on their own
Q Every year my husband and our four-year-old son – and, now, another baby who is six-months-old – have to spend our summer holidays in Massachusetts, where my husband spent all his holidays as a kid, sailing, playing tennis and so on, and living the whole American dream. My husband is American and has two lovely kids, aged 12 and 14, from a previous marriage. And we all go together.
But his mum and dad, his brother, his brother’s wife and the general entourage who we stay with in the family home in Massachusetts are anything but lovely. The thing is, I feel like a spare part during the one holiday of the year we take as a family, having to fit in with his annoying family, and do everything their way. Not to mention the astronomic cost. It costs the best part of €4,000 just to get us all there. I feel we spend all year saving up for this holiday that I loathe and have already been dreading for months. Plus it feels as if he hasn’t had to make anywhere nearly as many compromises that I have made since getting married and having children together. Dee
A [Sniffs aggressively] There is a strong whiff of burning martyr coming off your letter, Dee, which isn’t to say that I don’t sympathise hugely with your predicament. But the point is, your poor husband may be none the wiser about your dismay about this annual trip to Massachusetts because, so far, you have gone along with it each year while resenting him for failing to realise that, deep down, Massachusetts with his extended family is not your bag. We can’t blame our other halves for all the things we do for them grudgingly, expecting them to know better. They can know only when we tell them, so start a new conversation that will be the beginning of a family tradition of your own.
This was clearly one of those tacit agreements made between husband and wife, the kind of thing one foolishly agrees to in perpetuity when drunk on love and without any concept of what it is to be married and raise a family. Because no doubt when you first went there, pre-marriage maybe, and certainly pre-children, it wasn’t so bad, right? Big mistake. But one easily made. I did the same thing with a holiday we used to love on Patmos, a Greek island that is nigh-on impossible to get to, and, with young kids, just woefully impractical. Each year I say, maybe next year. There will come a time when that holiday works for us again, but it is not now.
I’m sure your husband will understand and make the compromise. He has to.
Because those halcyon days are gone. He is no longer the child in his extended family, but the head of the one he has created with you. And part of that new role means allowing you to dictate at least part of what’s what on the summer holiday front. I propose several options, which I suggest you bring up over a glass of wine – not after two bottles – and some food. You need to have a really open and honest conversation with him about how you feel and what you would like to happen. Not when you are crazy, deranged and ready to explode the night before the flight, but in a calm, grown-up conciliatory fashion.
You need to decide in advance what your bottom line is. By which I mean, what result would satisfy you? If any of my ideas below don’t meet your bottom line, don’t suggest them. But the more palatable options you can give your husband, all the better to bring them to the negotiating table. Options soften the heart and open the mind: make it seem as if there are so many attractive options, opening itup for discussion, rather than angrily offering a ridiculous ultimatum of the them-or-me variety.
Invite his extended American family to join you in France or on the west coast of Ireland, for example. If that is a compromise you can stomach, offer it, and offer it first, because your husband will love you for your generosity and be more open to your other, preferred options. They won’t come anyway, because, like most people, they like to do things their way.
Would it be okay if you went every other year instead? Or once every three years?
How about suggesting your husband goes with his other two kids and your toddler, and you stay at home with just the baby this year? As for the thousands of euro you save by not going, spend it on spa minibreaks and chuck it at babysitters so you can enjoy girlie nights out? Or suggest you spend the money saved on doing up the bathroom, under the stairs, the garden or whatever the money could usefully cover.
Better still, get him to take all the kids, if his family will be there to help, and give you a break. Approach this option with caution. A two-week vacation from all your domestic responsibilities may have you so delirious with happiness you can never go back to how it was before. The older children might love to stay with their American family on their own. This might be a huge adventure for them that appeals to all parties concerned and frees you up to have your first family holiday, just the four of you, entirely on your own terms.
The Grit Doctor says
Men know nothing about our feelings or position on things until we tell it to them straight. There is a reason no one ever coined the phrase “male intuition”.
Ruth Field is the author of Run Fat B!tch, Run! and Get Your Sh!t Together