Mother-in-Law Taking Over the Holidays Again

Dear Robin:

I’ve been happily married 4 years and we have two young kids. We’ve had a problem since before we even married and I need to fix it but I don’t know how.

My mother-in-law is taking over Christmas again and I’m sick of it.  I want to have my own celebrations at our home but she insists every year and gives both my husband and me a guilt trip if I try to argue for celebrating at our house.

Hubby is basically worthless on this issue and says he feels bad for his mom since she’s been alone for years since his dad died.  He says he doesn’t want to get in the middle and will do whatever his mom and I agree on.

How do I get it through her head that we are entitled to have the holidays at our house if we want to?  


Dear Pissed:

Thank you for the communication over email these past few days. You and your husband sound like lovely people and I’m sorry the holidays have become a problem for you.

I’m especially sorry that both of you are such wimps and have likely bred two tiny wimps.  Please use birth control from now on until your husband grows a pair and you find your inner ovum.

I say these things in love, so before you click somewhere else for advice, hear read me out.


You are Adults, so Act Like Adults

You dated the Nutless Wonder for two years prior to marriage, bringing your holiday suffering tally to 6 years.  Your mother-in-law commandeers not only Christmas, but also Thanksgiving, and recent reports suggest she is making a move on the Fourth of July as well.

First they came for Christmas, then they came for Thanksgiving, and then they came for the only decent holiday of the whole damn year.  It’s time to take a stand, because no mother-in-law will ever take away the holiday during which so many people drunkenly blow their hands off in an effort to express patriotism.

Your mother-in-law also criticizes your cooking, your weight, and has made repeated snide comments about the fact you work when you should be staying at home with the kids.

She sounds like a real hoot.  I can understand now why her husband checked out so many years ago, because if I were married to her I’d drive my car into a telephone pole too.

Sorry.  Too soon?


Use your words.  

Well, no, don’t do that.  Use my words, because I’m a professional advice writer while you are a professional victim.

First, Talk to Your Husband 

I need you to read these words very carefully, because your marriage depends upon it:

Things cannot continue as they are, and your husband needs to be a major component of turning your relationship with your mother-in-law into a more cohesive and cooperative one.  His current approach of abdication is unacceptable.  After all, this is his mother making you upset and ruining the holidays for you.

You are already rightfully pissed that this has been an issue for 6 years.  Imagine how you will feel by year 8 or 10 or 12.  I’ll tell you how you’ll feel:

You won’t.  You will be divorced.

One of our jobs as spouses is to always remember to lift up the other spouse and the marriage itself.  In this case, that means creating your own family traditions you can treasure, not simply blindly doing whatever your mother-in-law demands.

Here’s my words for your husband:

Honey, I am taking a stand and you need to take it with me.  It is very important to me that we have holiday traditions unique to our family and that includes having Christmas at home.  I am fine with inviting your mother over and hope she will join us, but if she chooses not to she will be alone.

Robin DesCamp has told me that this sort of problem can fester and grow worse over the years, creating a lasting negative impact on the marriage.  I need to feel supported by you in this and any other family matters so please make it clear to your mom that we will be celebrating the holidays at home most years, with an occasional exception from time to time.

Knowing your husband, he’s probably cowering and crying in a corner after this tough talk.  Poor little guy.

Now, “Talk” to Your Mother-in-Law

You know I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, and your situation presents a wonderful opportunity to own your shit and change your life for the better.

As I wrote last week, we are all personally responsible for our own happiness.  If you continue to suffer from year to year under your mother-in-law’s regime you have nobody but yourself to blame.

Since you told me your mother-in-law tends to speak over you, shovel guilt upon you, and ignore your words when you talk with her, I’m preparing you an email script.  Please copy/paste and send me $5.50, because free advice isn’t free any longer.

Dear Awful Person (you can change that if you like):

I’ve tried over the years to impress upon you my desire to host the holidays at my home but I’ve been unable to do so.  

I understand your wish to continue the traditions you started with your husband and kids years ago, but I ask you to remember that as a wife and mother, I too want to create such traditions and memories in my home.

I hope you will join us for Christmas and become a part of our celebration.  If you choose not to, you will be missed.


Found My Ovum and No Longer Pissed

If you receive any pushback, simply do not respond.  It’s just that easy.

“Peter remained on friendly terms with Christ notwithstanding Christ’s having healed his mother-in-law.” 
―Samuel Butler


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Tamsen

    Good grief Charlie Brown. I agree. Grow a pair, and if you can, hoist a pair onto that wimpy husband too. In the end, he’ll appreciate it.

  2. Kathy Busse

    Dear Robin, Merry Christmas to you all.
    Having had in-laws (and out-laws) for many years, I felt an immediate need to reply to “pissed”. Growing a pair may take too long. If Pissed’s hubby is inept at crossing mama’s will– try rotating holidays—or better, while Pissed has mom-in-law’s attention—negotiate! Throw in the other holidays in the bargain—and pick a time to confront her well before the next holiday–stash some champagne in the fridge to celebrate the bargain with Hubby , who will want a reward……

  3. Greg Kane-O'Shea

    You’re right and you’re right in your own inimical style. My father-in-law is a complete ass. I haven’t gone to his house since one of these winter holidays 4 or 5 years ago, when he had a loaded handgun and ammunition lying on the kitchen counter with kids running around the place. I left that night after dinner (which I did not eat; choosing to sit it out in the living room) and stayed at a hotel nearby, foregoing the original plan to stay in their guest room. I won’t ever go back while he’s still kicking. And I mean kicking in all senses.

    I got called a “pleaser” by my ex. And she spit it out when she said it. I think there is something to be said for flexing and bearing up under the antagonisms of unreasonable people. I see us all as evolving and doing it in a messy way. That said, at some point, standing up, pushing back, and calling out what’s happening for what it is, is righteous. Speaking truth to power, or whatever it is that’s being wielded by your antagonist. “Hey, dude! You’re nude! Put some clothes on and act civilized.”

    The grace that we aspire to is not likely to happen in the face of a bully, mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, former lovers, whaddevuhs!

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