Bossy Brother-in-Law

30 Jan

Letterbalm No TravelDear LetterBalm: I have three sisters. We want to plan a big trip to Australia and New Zealand next year with our husbands. We all get along except for husband of one of us. He’s argumentative, a know-it-all, and he verbally abuses our sister. We put up with his loudmouth behavior at family events, but traveling with him for several weeks will be tortuous and disruptive and ruin the trip for everyone. Frankly, we’re trying to figure out how we can include his wife without him. We’re thinking of not telling them about the trip or telling her she can come but he can’t. Of course, this means a family riot. How do we get out of this and still have a nice trip?

–Family Footloose

Ms. L.B. wants you to know that this is the sort of problem that encourages feuds or duels. Tread carefully. Don’t complicate matters by lying. Be honest, even if you hurt your sister’s feelings. And, you must be truthful because anything you say will remind your sister that she married a jerk (who may well get angry and take it out on her when he finds out about being excluded from the planned vacation). Several steps to take: First, stop discussing this with those not directly involved in the trip. Second, arrange to meet your sister in a way that recalls happy times for her. Coffee around the kitchen table? An afternoon along a hiking trail? Cooking together in a sister’s kitchen? If you think she won’t feel ganged up on, all of her sisters can be there; otherwise, pick the one with whom she’s the closest:

Emilia, I/we love you very much – please, don’t forget that. But I/we have to say something that probably will hurt your feelings. We’re planning a trip next year to Australia and New Zealand with our husbands. As you know, it’s a part of the world we’ve all wanted to see, and we plan to be there for a month, which makes it a big commitment in time and money. We want you with us, but, Honey, Alvin really complicates things. I’ll/we’ll come right out and say it: He isn’t a good traveling companion. He’s difficult, overbearing, and he’ll disrupt things in a big way. You’re welcome, he isn’t, and we’re firm on this. It wouldn’t have been fair to keep the trip from you – we never would do that. If you want to talk about this, I’m/we’re here to listen. And, if you want all of us to talk with Alvin, we will. The guys are willing to do it, even though he may argue and try to convince us to include him. Please don’t be angry. Let’s talk about all this.

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