Carolyn Hax: Husband asks spouse to be rude so his parents will leave

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My in-laws are coming for a visit next week. They’re retired, and they moved, before I met my husband, to another country about a five-hour flight from where we live. Last time they visited us, they ended up staying for seven weeks. Yep, seven. They told us they would only stay for “about three weeks” but kept extending it.

My husband was just as miserable as I was but wouldn’t ask them to leave. We know they never stay that long with his brother, “Mike,” and his wife, “Carla.” My husband asked me to talk to Carla since Mike said she’s the one who knows how to make their parents leave. Carla told me she gives them the worst room in the house, with the crappiest mattress and towels and no TV. She doesn’t let them buy any food or cook, she makes food they don’t really like, and she keeps the big TV tuned to what she wants to watch, never their shows. If they break her rules, she complains out loud.

My husband wants me to do this, but thinking about being that rude to my in-laws is stressing me out. I want my husband to just talk to his parents and set a reasonable time limit for their visit, but he says he can’t, because they’d never forgive him. Should I go along with treating my in-laws this way, because my husband wants me to? Not sure I can, but I guess I could try.

Anonymous: Omg. Your husband has the spine of a petunia.

“No, I will not abuse my guests because you can’t say no. I can’t believe you even asked me that. Their not forgiving you is their problem.

All four of them need family systems therapy, stat.

Assuming he can’t or won’t consider spinal replacement: You and he decide on a time limit for their visit, plan a trip for the day after that limit, then leave.

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Readers, have at it (except “Carla,” who scares me a little):

· “Spine of a petunia” indeed. I 100 percent agree with Carolyn. From a practical side, though, I’m going to guess these parents never taught the husband how to set practical limits, and probably penalized him for trying. It might help Anonymous to actually sit down with the husband and rehearse the conversation, repeatedly and with variations, several times — and, if he wants, for Anonymous also to be in the room during the call as a “silent coach” to make eye contact, nod encouragingly, etc. Or, if they’re both willing, Anonymous might even be the one to do the limit-setting. Not ideal, but far better than the rude-on-purpose solution.

· I think it’s a bad idea to have an excuse of leaving on a trip as being why they must leave. Too easy for them to say that they’ll look after the house and for spineless husband to agree. I’d ask a friend to visit and tell in-laws and husband that everyone isn’t staying there at the same time. In fact, the in-laws must be gone 48 hours before the friend arrives, so the room can be professionally cleaned as she does before all guests.

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