Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: At my wedding six years ago, my mother gave a tipsy, boneheaded toast that implied she wasn’t all that fond of my husband. My husband has gotten over it — he and my mom actually have a great relationship — but his parents were completely offended, and made it clear at the time that they weren’t interested in any joint family hangouts.
This hadn’t been a problem, as our parents live 500 miles away from each other, but now my husband and I are expecting our first child. I anticipate some family blending is going to be necessary.
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Do you have any advice for how I can mend this unkempt relationship? I don’t expect my mom and mother-in-law to become BFFs, but I feel the disastrous toast should be addressed before throwing them around the same holiday table.
– Belatedly joining families
DEAR BELATEDLY JOINING FAMILIES: “Disastrous toast” — good band name.
Your in-laws made themselves clear six years ago, so there’s at least some chance they’re over the insult, too — or at least far enough past their fury to breathe the same air as your mom.
Can’t your husband talk to his parents? Say he’s over it to the point of enjoying a great relationship with his mother-in-law? Ask them to give her a chance — if not for him, then for their grandchild?
Husband would rather head-in-the-sand this problem. As in, “Our parents are very different types of people, probably won’t enjoy each other, and we should just always keep them separate.” I think it needs to be shown that we can all, yes, manage to spend a day with each other without anyone dying at the end.
– Joining Families again
DEAR JOINING FAMILIES AGAIN: “Oh, suck it up.” Seriously. But, then, I’m a real joy to live with.
If you have any kind of warm relationship with your in-laws, then say openly that you’d like to get both families together, and ask what it will take — from you, from your mom — to put your mother’s drunken buffoonery behind you.
If you don’t, then just throw them all together and expect them to be adults about it. They may not, but that doesn’t mean you’d be wrong to treat them as if they will. Sometimes trying to anticipate people’s bad behavior becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Plus, any poor behavior is the fault of the person behaving badly, not the fault of the host.
I don’t get this. If you know certain groups wouldn’t get along, why even bother hosting them together? My husband’s parents and mine barely know each other. It was super awkward at the wedding when they met. I rarely see my parents, so when I do, I’d like to make sure it’s not awkward. Why do we have to force the Cosby Show ideal family onto everything?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: If you have no interest in togetherness, then I’m with you.
In this case, though, the obstacle is an injury that is in the past and, among some of the key parties, already healed, plus there’s the reasonable expectation that a grandchild will create a bunch of milestone-marking events that will involve either mixing family or awkward contortions to avoid mixing family.
So, best to try it now, while the child is too young to remember the outcome.