How To Survive Family Vacation | Meredith Foster
How to Survive a Vacation With Your In Laws
You finally get to go away on vacation––only to find out the in-laws are tagging along too! Although you want to grin and bear it, deep down inside you're screaming and annoyed, especially if your in-laws have a tendency to constantly point out your shortcomings in that saccharin-sweet way that doesn't reach your spouse's radar. Unfortunately, what’s done is done and instead of pouting or having a tantrum, you’ll need to deploy some coping mechanisms not only to ensure that you make it through the vacation, but also to allow you to find the time to enjoy and relax.
Take an honest look at your reaction and assess how much of it is exaggeration and how much of it is likely to come true.What annoys you most about the in-laws? You may want to say “everything about them” annoys you but honestly they can’t be all that bad––they produced the person you love, right? For your own sake, be prepared to give them a break and be open to the possibility that they might surprise you, even if it's surprise at the ease with which you can convince them to stay lounging while the rest of you go out hiking away from them. And rather than broadly dismissing them, try to only pinpoint which areas get on your nerves the most, so that you can find ways to tackle these annoyances head on.
- Once you’ve identified what is most unnerving, figure out ways to avoid producing that kind of behavior. For example, if your father in-law likes to call every restaurant server by first name and joke a little too excessively with him or her, or your in-laws like to spend big while you're trying to stick to a budget, suggest to your spouse that he or she does all the restaurant ordering or that you eat at your vacation residence more often (if possible). Alternatively, get the in-laws cooking more often or paying their own way.
- Try to suck it up. You aren’t going to change them and you may have to be in situations where they're being annoying or embarrassing. Instead of blowing your top, consider trying to be Zen with the situation. Practice meditation and visualization when they start getting on your nerves. And definitely practice letting go––their behavior reflects on them, not on you.
- Get assertive. If the reason your in-laws bug you is because they give you advice on everything from child raising to weight loss, be prepared to call them on it. Let them know that you have heard what they think but that you have made choices to raise your children/eat the way you do/dress as you do and the like, because of your own background/reasons/learning/decisions, etc. In particular, don't let comments about spoiling or ruining your children fester––once said, they'll assume they can keep it up but if you point out how the comments impact you and how inappropriate they are, the in-laws are on notice to stop doing it. You can soften your annoyance by acknowledging advice you do agree with (in the hope the advice will stay at that level).
Consider a time limit, in all seriousness.Unless you're sharing a mansion with wings for your in-laws and your family, avoid staying together too long. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "fish and visitors go off after three days" and even your immediate family can feel overwhelming when around each other constantly, let alone extended family. Stand your ground and limit the amount of time spent together on vacation.
Assess the options for distancing yourself from the in-laws part of the time, according out where you'll be vacationing.Where you're headed for holiday can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you choose to see it. In all cases, you arenottheir babysitters and youareentitled to get out and enjoy yourself away from their presence. It can help to remind yourself that even your own parents or anyone from that generation would probably cramp your style after a while anyway, so shelve the guilt and start looking for constructive and fair solutions instead.
- Cruise:Even though you may be feeling “trapped” at sea, don't despair as you may have more freedom than you think. In addition to having your own cabin, most cruise ships are extremely large, so you could easily “get lost” on board throughout the trip. Even better is suggesting that everyone select their preferred activities to head off to and agree to only meet up again for meals.
- All-inclusive resort:While you may have your own room, you’ll need to ascertain how much square footage you have to roam. Resorts typically mean that you don’t want to venture out into the town alone, so identify some “hiding” spots throughout the area so you can grab some alone time. And find out what activities are on offer that will interest your in-laws––help them book into them. If you find out they dislike the gym, spend more time there; on the other hand, if they want to lie around all day, find some active options for yourself that takes you out of their presence. On your return, you can always lie down at the opposite end of the pool, swearing that your myopia prevented you from spotting them.
- House rental:This is the ultimate in togetherness so if you're renting a house with the in-laws, stockpile the alcohol, board games, outdoor sporting gear, local attractions guide, bikes for quick escape, and buckle up. This trip will require a little more than creative planning on your part as you will most likely be together 24/7. Do some online research before leaving to find out what activities and sites your in-laws might like to do and see, so that you have plenty of excuses to drive them into the nearest town and leave them there for the day.
- Overseas adventure:On the one hand, you should be extremely busy and involved in exploring new territory, cultures and experiences. On the other hand, you may want to strangle your mother-in-law for attempting to speak Mandarin, while infusing Pig Latin into her sentences and complaining that she doesn't eat foreign muck. Grit your teeth and learn to hide behind the guidebook but don't be too timid––occasionally calling out your in-law's rudeness or boredom with what is happening can actually spur them into getting with it sometimes, out of embarrassment or a desire to keep up with you.
Plan alone time with your spouse and/or family.The best way to take back your vacation is to set aside time for just you and your immediate family. A day excursion or even a dinner at night may help you feel like you have regained (somewhat) control over your vacation.
- Let your in-laws know ahead of time that you plan to do a few spouse or family only activities. Be matter of fact and deliver the news to make it sound like it is something good for everyone, including the in-laws.
- Don’t be too specific about what you're doing. If your in-laws are crafty they may “surprise” you with a visit during dinner or a couples massage.
Mix it up.Divided you conquer and getting the in-laws unglued might actually improve things for everyone (maybe even them included). Make it clear to your in-laws that this isn't about avoiding them but it's about making the most of the time everyone has together on this vacation. By acknowledging that different people and age groups have different interests to pursue, you can enlighten them to spending time apart as a way of increasing togetherness as a whole and helping them to see it's perfectly natural that there will be occasions when you split up into pairs, smaller groups or even as individuals, depending on the activities chosen. Sell this mixing-it-up as a benefit (which it is), and be sure to split the in-laws up too, so that grandpa spends time with his granddaughter, grandma spends time with her grandson, and so on, apart from each other. Basically, split them apart for a bit and you might discover different personalities under the restfulness of a vacation!
- Be fair. Although you may want to ditch the in-laws every single day on your trip, balance the alone days with in-law days, so you don’t offend or upset anyone.
Take a vacation from in-law anxiety.You're going to have to go to that happy Zen place if you're to survive an in-law laden vacation. Consider implementing some de-stressing activities to enhance your mood and boost your serotonin levels.
- Work out every day. While you may feel as if you should lay around like a fine piece of veal during your vacation, you should do just the opposite to get the endorphins pumping and boost the happy hormones. It's a good excuse for time to yourself and you'll astonish your in-laws with your dedication and fitness levels.
- Sleep in. Now’s the time to catch up on those z’s, plus you’ll be better prepared to handle your in-law’s grating habits.
- Eat well. Indulge in the indigenous bounty provided at your destination. Enjoy fruits and vegetables and try to avoid overindulging on desserts or alcohol. Good food will keep everyone in a good mood. If cooking is an in-house matter, draw up a roster that includes your in-laws taking turns.
- Practice meditation. Even if you’ve never meditated in your life, sit in a dark, peaceful room for a few minutes every day. Close your eyes and think of a place where you feel happiest and most at peace. Practice deep breathing exercises to relax the mind and soul.
Talk more.Perhaps some of your anxiety and dislike or discomfort around your in-laws has grown over the years through lack of communication or as a result of misunderstandings. Vacation time is an opportunity for some honest heart-to-hearts, especially dark nights by the bonfire or under the stars, where people seem to feel less inhibited and more likely to speak personal truths. If you approach this as a potential for bonding, however tenuously, it might not be as utterly mind-numbing as you're worried it will be.
- Once again, assert yourself. If you've been too good to your in-laws out of deference to your spouse, you may be harboring resentment over the comments and actions of your in-laws. Whenever they say or do something that bothers you, find a polite and assertive way to draw their attention to what they're doing. Even if they're doing it to purposefully annoy you, they may be surprised that you're willing to stand up for yourself and demand more respect. Nobody said this is meant to be easy but it is part of your own personal growth to both reach out and to assert your own dignity. At least you can say you tried.
- Keep expenses separate from your in-laws, so that there’s no confusion about who is paying for what. If they offer to pay for everything, realize that this can come with a higher price than you've bargained for, so be careful. If they want to buy their grandchildren something or take them someplace special let them it will draw they closer to your family.
- Remember that this is your vacation too, so if you compromise on some aspects, insist on others (such as if they want to go para-sailing one day, suggest an activity you want to do the next day, like snorkeling).
- Try to consider the trip to be a bonding experience––if you go in with the right attitude, you could come home closer than ever.
- Too much togetherness may breed contempt. If you feel as if you're going to explode because you're extremely annoyed, take a deep breath, count to three and leave the area until you’ve regained your composure. Blowing up at your in-laws during the trip can cause bad blood that will last long beyond the vacation.
- If you know there are serious conflicts that won't be resolved during the trip, consider standing your ground about not vacationing with them at all. Distance is sometimes toleration.
- If your conflicts blow up to the point they would impair driving, separate before heading home. If necessary get them a different rental car and cite road safety as a good sensible reason.
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