Dear Carolyn • Every time we visit my in-laws, I end up snappish and short-tempered, which obviously isn't the side of me I want them to see. When I brought this up with my husband, he said he understood, and that I didn't have to go on the next planned trip. While I appreciate his letting me off the hook, I don't think avoidance is a permanent solution. What I'd really like are some coping techniques or attitude adjustments to decrease my stress around them. For what it's worth, they're not bad people. We just have radically different political views, biorhythms, interests, parenting philosophies, etc. They drive my husband crazy, too, but since it's the environment he grew up in, he adjusts fairly easily which is probably part of what irritates me.
Dear Vacationing • You have one answer sitting on the other end of the couch: Your husband adjusts, so don't growl at him learn from him. Ask what strategies he uses. And, you have another answer in you. When people don't drive us crazy, it usually means we're getting what we need from them. So, when people do drive us crazy, that usually means we want something from them that we aren't getting. Now think about your in-laws with the goal of figuring out what that something is and giving up hope. Give up on their ever understanding you, being interesting, not being awkward, serving edible food, approving of the way you raise your kids, saying, "You're right." Hope stymies acceptance. Also, don't underestimate avoidance as a permanent solution. Boycotting is extreme, sure, but ... You can make the visits a wee bit shorter, a tad less frequent, a smidge more structured (a movie, a play, another venue when conversation is similarly discouraged). After a day or two, you can spin off on your own to visit a friend who lives somewhere (remotely) nearby. You can become Super DIL, and go grocery shopping (alone), weed the flower beds (alone), do the dishes (alone) ... especially when politics erupt. In other words, you can control the dosage more, and more good-naturedly, than you think. A fresher you can then focus on where your interests do overlap.
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