Anxious About Upcoming post-Thanksgiving Extended Family Event

Updated on November 06, 2008
D.H. asks from Briarcliff Manor, NY
13 answers

Update: Grandma was informed that dialysis center is closed that Thursday. This is going to get really interesting!!!
Hello all. My family is planning a get-together the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Grandma is on dialysis and won't change her day (and she shouldn't change it but will do so if my SIL and younger BRO plan an event for their darling 4YO-I refuse to put that kind of guilt or pressure on her). SIL and older BRO accepted a subsequent invite to SIL's extended family so are only coming in for Friday event. SIL and younger BRO (mentioned before) go to her family on Thanksgiving. We are left to try to figure out how to celebrate Thanksgiving with phantom family on Thanksgiving. But the REAL issue is getting together with MY family on the Friday after. SIL and younger BRO have serious relationship problems with each other causing enormous tension for me. It definitely bothers my 11yo daughter. My 4yo son so far hasn't shown recognition of it. My hubby ignores it-G*d bless him! I can't ignore it particularly since SIL and BRO each pull me aside and insist I take their side. They each refuse counseling citing the other's refusal to go (can you get any more screwed up than that?!) Their behaviour is unhealthy for them, their son and anyone who witnesses it. Do I really have to expose myself to this AGAIN and expose my children too? My 11yo daughter always asks about the situation after such visits and while she has every right to inquire, why should she keep having to be exposed to this toxic relationship? I feel bullied by each of them and their behaviour. Every family event they attend is dominated by it. And if they don't attend, its usually because of it! At what point can I stand up to them and insist they "grow up". I risk alienating the rest of the family if I stay away to avoid it, as if I have the problem dealing. Maybe I do! I witnessed this from my parents growing up-do I really have to live through this again?!?!

What can I do next?

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answers from New York on

It is so hard when a couple's families do not get along. I can truly empathize. All you are trying to do is have a nice holiday for your family, and you have to have the additional stress of machinating everyone. My advice, after MANY years of stress over the holidays is thus:

1. Have separate events. I dont care what Emily Post said in the past, nowadays, it is perfectly acceptable to keep those families apart. Together, they are, as you say, toxic. So why do it? Clearly, there is no benefit for you, your husband or the kids.

2. Focus on what YOU and your husband/kids want to do. If your extended families' want to follow suit, then great. If not, then great too.

3. Do try and make it nice for the kids and for Grandma, but dont compromise yourself. It will only result in years of frustration and a dread of the upcoming holidays.

4. If you MUST have the entire group, I STRONGLY suggest that you ALWAYS invite an outside member. Invite one of your friends or your husbands who are not very close with your family. This will make everyone behave better. Trust me, it works like a charm!

5. Dont let either party "take you aside". That just isnt fair to you. You can say lovingly that you no longer feel that behavior is appropriate, you love them both, but want to focus on the holiday, not their feud. Let them grow up and learn how to behave in a social setting. If they cannot, then definitely have separate parties.

I hope that helps. I can so relate to your stress and sad feelings. Please feel free to email me separately anytime!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Now this isn't the most honest thing to do, but on each side of our families we have toxic folks, be they alcoholics or arguers. I generally tell each family we'e spending x-holiday with the other family, then stay home and spend the time with my hubby and kids.

Now, I enjoy the company of both my family and his, but major family gatherings are never fun for me.

I would say, whoever hosts the event needs to be the one to put their foot down about the pair. Speak to the hostess and tell her you cannot bear to see those two fight and you would rather spend time with the family seperatly then watch a family holiday become a bickering contest. Perhaps thier invitation will get "lost" in the mail.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

It seems you need to make the change for yourself and your own children. Not easy.
I suggest that you talk to your brother alone...tell him that you love him but can't be involved anymore in watching him and his wife doing a re-run of your childhood. That holidays should be pleasant and since he and his wife can't seem to set their differences aside for a family function... you, your husband and children wont be attending.
I suggest that you do the holidays in your house for you, your husband and children. Invite your friends who don't have family to spend the holidays with. Make arrangements to see the rest of the family another time with your husband and children when you know your brother and his wife aren't there.

A big step for you to make but in time, well worth it. I have seperated myself from my family 4 years ago for simular reasons and come to realize how pleasant my life is without them....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Okay first you sound like you need a hug so(((HUG))).

Okay on to the question.

It sounds like no one is able to respect you and your family's time or feelings. Why try so hard for them. (I know easier said than done). Is there anyway you can be "busy" so no one is at fault if you don't see them?

I can tell you from my upbringing my mother would make us go to her messed up family (and yes I can say that as a member of it). I do, however, also remember my mom's breaking point. It was one Christmas when the fighting spilled out of my aunt's house onto the street and we sat in the car watching one aunt and two cousins screaming at each other. My mom didn't care if they were mad at her after that, she didn't want to expose us to it any longer.

I wish you the best but remember as hard as it is, your husband and your kids are your family and you have to think of them.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

It is perfectly fine to limit your exposure and you children's exposure to toxic people even -- or perhaps especially -- if the people are relatives. You have to decide where you want to set your limits. You could skip the gathering all together or maybe go late (just for dessert) or leave early (conflicting plans?). You could try talking to the people that you are having trouble with but the odds are it won't help much. You might also think of a way to firmly but politely refuse to be cornered by the relatives in question. Maybe saying something like "I'm sorry you and ___ are not getting along but I don't think I can help you solve this problem." Then walk away.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with just the immediate family can be calm and very pleasant. We did this for many years when I was growing up because we got together with extended family on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In high school and college one of my friends invited all of us over for dessert after the relatives left (she has a huge Italian family and liked to relax with friends after helping her mom entertain all day). So go ahead and come up with a tradition that makes you and your immediate family happy.

PS Girl Scouting is great! Most of my close friends now were in scouts with me through high school. My mom was a leader for many years and still is on some council comittees.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Why do you keep doing this to yourself and your children???? (and your spouse?) YOU have to break the CYCLE you mentioned before it "spills" over to your children...Have a G**darn get-together with only the people (family) that bring you joy and don't invite the ones that bring you Grief and Drama! Don't know why you feel you need to put yourself through this each year (holiday?) If I'm reading this right "you do this for the sake of unity?" Keeping the family together? Seems like the family is divided by the behaviors of the people that you have to remind to act like "grown-ups". Life is too short to let anyone steal your JOY...Think of your Children, and know that children live and learn by example...I wish you a PEACE of mind...CC

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Been there, done that...... you need to do what you need to do for your OWN little family of four. You have the right choose to NOT expose your family (of four) to the negativity. Start your own Thanksgiving tradition of inviting who you want (including your lovely MIL)to your house for a lovely, memorable Thanksgiving day, whenever that day happens to fall (on the day, the day before, the day after, the Sat. after...... whenever you decide.) It's a special family holiday and should be enjoyed without any of the bull$#i&. Your kids deserve a nice relaxed holiday so they'll know how to give their own future children lovely holidays. Good luck.
D. N.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Binghamton on

Hi D.,

Here's what I would the first one who starts telling you personal business about their relationship say "Look, I love you and I love my brother. You are family. I know you love each other too. Do you really want me knowing this personal information about your marriage? You two will make up and forget, and I will remember these details forever. Do you want me to think of my brother that way? I'd appreciate it if you would keep your personal family problems to yourselves so that I don't have hard feelings toward either of you." and then you'll have to say the same thing to the other one when they approach you with complaints about their spouse.

Obviously, sharing this sort of info is completely inappropriate, and they are lacking censorship, boundaries, and respect for each other and the marriage relationship. They need to be told to "get a room" and deal with these issues within their marriage, not by trying to get others to take sides. They need to be on the same side, even when they disagree, it is still them against the world, or it should be. Give them a reality check. They need to hear it if they are going to make it.

Then, once you've said your peace...if they keep bringing it up, kindly say that you've already said you don't want to know about this, and then walk away from them.

When I was a young, newly married woman, I used to go to my mother with problems that I should have been working out with my has tainted her opinion of him to this day. You can tell them that. Thankfully I smartened up before any real damage was done, but it was definitely a learning experience and reminded me that other people won't have unconditional love for your spouse if you badmouth them...especially if they loved you first!!

As for Thanksgiving day...I don't have family around for the holiday, and my brother and SIL have no interest in seeing my family, so we get together with another couple and their kids who are in the same family nearby. Whoever said Thanksgiving had to be celebrated with family only? I'm sure you know plenty of people who would enjoy your company and splitting the cooking! Don't sit home alone on Thanksgiving...the first Thanksgiving was a huge celebration with everyone together, not holed up in their own houses with their own families!

Take care!




answers from Utica on

Hi D.
I don't see how far apart you all live, but assuming that you live far apart and since you are not 20 any more, I assume that your grandmother is not a spring chicken.
Our family decided that we would all see grandma separately so as not to tax her. It worked wonderful. She has visits all the long weekend. We get together with family making plans and it is easy to work around because it is your own immediate family.
It is not nearly as many people to plan for, it is not nearly as expensive, and it is not nearly as stressful.
This year my MIL is in a senior center. We went to her place to visit . She was able to make arrangements with the dining hall for us to eat there. For $5 @ we had the meal served. What a glorious day! Some of his bros & sis showed up, saw us there and stayed socially gracious and left so we could visit mom. My inlaws are in Canada and therefore celebrate Thanksgiving in Oct.
Hope you can figure out something similar saying it is too much to have everyone tog. Stopping by for an hour or so after gives you a visit w/o stress.
God bless you and hope you can make an arrangement
K. SAHM married 38 years -- adult children 37,32, and 18 yo twin girls, our younger son made us grandparents this summer.



answers from Jamestown on

I'd simply explain to them that you are having thanksgiving on Thursday and have other plans for Friday so you can't make it. Tell your husband if he's like to go, feel free.... but you and the kids aren't going to be there.
It's too stressful, and these are toxic people.



answers from Albany on

Do not expose your family to toxic situations. Alienation vs poisoning.....

Alienation from toxicity is only good

Been there done that
Celebrate with those who give joy and love



answers from New York on

Hi D.~
I was in a marriage that seemed to be a carbon copy of your SIL/Bro. I have to tell you, though, since I was told a condition I had (still have, just less serious) I started speaking my mind. Yes, it will alienate my family, but they should understand that no one is guareneed a tomorrow. Tell your brother it's his marriage and he needs to grow up, act his age, and talk to his wife if he has problems with her. Tell him you are not their marriage counselor and you no longer wish to hear their problems. And say the same to your sil.
If you find it difficult to be that outspoken, kindly tell him you find it awkward and their behavior is very upsetting for your own family. You don't need to get into specifics, but make it clear to him that you love him and you want this to work out for the both of them, but you will no longer be dragged into his marriage. After all, she didn't marry all of you, just him.
Good luck.


answers from New York on

You know it's ok to tell them up front that your house is going to be a drama free zone for Thanksgiving. You might even post a sign on the door that says "entering a drama free zone" just as a funny friendly reminder. Appoint yourself the drama police officer of the day and the minute anyone says something out of line step in and remind them it's a drama free zone.

It's no fun being caught between other people's stupid problems and your entire family shouldn't have to put up with in anymore. Put your foot down and if one of them chooses not to come then it's their decission.

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