If your efforts to impress your in-laws or even get along with them have failed, you may be looking for options so as not to cut them out of your life altogether. While it is highly unlikely that you will be able to avoid them all the time, you can set reasonable limits by having open and honest communication, both with your in-laws and with your spouse. If you really need to take a break from them, you can take advantage of a few short-term tricks to avoid them for a while.
Method 1 of 3: Avoid a Specific Visit
Step 1. Be honest (whenever you can) instead of making excuses
Faking an illness to avoid visiting your in-laws can be very tempting, but use these kinds of tactics sporadically. The truth always has a way of coming out, and when it happens, you'll have to deal with an even more awkward relationship with your in-laws. Instead, whenever you can, provide an honest explanation for not being able to be part of a visit.
- If you are very sick, say so. If you have a lot of work, you can say something like "I'm sorry, but I'm inundated with work and I can't visit you this weekend."
- Be very careful when pretending an illness or making up another excuse if you have young children. Children love to reveal secrets and might say something like "Grandma, actually, Mom is not sick."
Step 2. Organize a conflicting appointment that you cannot miss to avoid the visit
Make an appointment for your root canal the week your in-laws plan the visit. They don't need to know that there are many other scheduling options. You can also arrange a get-together with an old friend from high school on the day you have to visit your in-laws.
- Starting a home improvement project can be a good way to avoid a visit or two, as long as your in-laws aren't the type to insist on helping.
- This might be a desperate move, but, in some jurisdictions, you can volunteer for jury duty.
Step 3. "Divide and conquer" by visiting both families at the same time
Simply put, visit your family while your spouse visits his. Call it a necessity due to busy schedules, which is probably not that far from reality. It's best to use this tactic only once in a while, as it could raise suspicions and end up worsening your relationship with both families.
- If concurrent visits are impractical due to cost, be clear with both parents that you will alternate visits on a fairly rigid schedule "to be fair to everyone."
- If you have children, you can alternate who they visit or split them for visits. Again, it is best to use this tactic strategically and only occasionally.
Step 4. Go for a walk or run an errand during a visit if you need a break
If your visit goes off the rails, politely announce that you will be out for a walk. You can say that you need fresh air or that you want to walk to ease stomach upset caused by eating too much. Use the time to regain your composure and prepare for the rest of your visit.
Especially if the visit is at home, you can also say that you need to take care of an errand (like buying more milk) and take some time to do it. You can even strategically make sure you don't have a lot of milk ahead of time
Method 2 of 3: Set Limits for Timeshare
Step 1. Set clear deadlines for visits ahead of time
If you really need to limit your time with your in-laws, never leave anything open when it comes to visits. Don't say "Sure, come into town for a few days" or "We'll visit you for a few hours on Sunday." Be specific. For example, you can say "We'd love to have you stay home from Friday night through Saturday afternoon" or "We can go from 2 to 4 on Sunday afternoon."
- If they pressure you because they want the visit to be longer, provide honest but respectful reasons why it can't be. For example, you can say "I'm sorry, but we'll both have a lot of work in the week and Lucas has an important test at school on Monday."
- Make arrangements for something else to do at the end of the visit so it can't go on any longer. For example, organize a dinner with an old friend.
Step 2. Insist on staying in a hotel for an overnight visit
As much as they have an extra room and all the hotels in the area are expensive, make it clear from the beginning that you will not be staying at your in-laws' house. If you stay, you will have very little control over the amount of time you spend with them.
Explain the decision based on your comfort level. For example, you can say, "We are just more comfortable staying in a hotel, and we think we can all sleep better that way."
Step 3. Insist that they stay in a hotel when their visit is at night
This can be a bit difficult, especially if you have a place in your home. However, if possible, never make it an option from the start. For example, when you invite them, say something like "Can we help you find a nearby hotel?"
- Don't feel obligated to pay for the hotel, but consider it if necessary (for example, if you know they have money problems).
- If they've ever stayed at your house, but now you know it's best they don't do it again, be honest and polite. For example, you can say, "Things work better this way, and we will all rest better and be happier during the time we spend together."
Step 4. Treat them as guests in your home
This means being polite and respectful, and providing for their needs and comforts (within reason). However, it also means that you can request and expect them to act as guests in your home. That is, like any guest, you can expect them not to enter your room or other areas that you consider off limits.
Be direct as needed. For example, you can say "We want you to be comfortable here, but we ask you not to enter Daniel's room and workshop in the basement. Everything is very messy anyway!"
Method 3 of 3: Communicate with your spouse
Step 1. Prioritize the needs of your marriage
There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, be honest with your spouse if you feel they are taking their parents' side to the detriment of the relationship. On the other hand, make sure you don't put your desire to limit or avoid time with your in-laws over the health of your relationship.
Marriages can and do fall apart due to problems with in-laws, so be sure to communicate freely and regularly about any concerns you have. Don't be afraid to propose couples therapy if you feel it might help
Step 2. Participate in solution-oriented discussions regarding your in-laws
Venting to your spouse about the terrible things your in-laws do or say can be tempting. However, keep in mind that they are your spouse's parents, so they may become defensive in the face of criticism. Instead, focus on describing your feelings and asking for help finding solutions that benefit everyone.
- Instead of saying, "Your mom questions every decision I make regarding children," say something like, "I feel like I'm not respected as a parent when all my decisions are challenged by your mom."
- Once you express your feelings, work to find solutions. You can say, "I would very much like to sit down and talk to her about our differences about parenting."
Step 3. Make an agreement to accept and avoid visits
In most cases, your spouse may not eliminate their parents from their life completely, and having them visit without you every time could cause friction in the marriage. You will most likely have to work with your partner to find a satisfactory means of visiting with your in-laws.
For example, instead of spending Easter and Christmas with your in-laws every year, maybe you can spend a single party with them and take a trip alone with your spouse (and children, if you have one) for the other
Step 4. Present a unified front with your spouse at all times
If you and your partner disagree, your in-laws could (intentionally or not) drive a wedge between you. This is why it is important to discuss your concerns with your spouse and find solutions that both of you agree to. Once you agree on a plan of action, encourage your spouse to respect it, no matter how uncomfortable it is.