Saturday, March 2, 2024
HomeVacationsMy cheap in-laws keep exploiting me for free vacations.

My cheap in-laws keep exploiting me for free vacations.

Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Dear Prudence,
I telecommute, which is a blessing because my husband’s career requires a lot of moving around. The problem is right now we are in a very attractive city to visit and my in-laws are cheap as hell. They are crawling out of the woodwork to “visit” us, a.k.a. demanding I wait on them hand and foot while we go to tourist trap after tourist trap. They are horrible guests and complain about everything and ignore the fact that I actually have to work. I am always on my computer and can’t just ignore my clients because they are bored and can’t figure out the subway system. Before the pandemic, I had it out with my sister-in-law. I warned her I had a 7 a.m. meeting and we were living in a studio at the time. She decided to stay out partying until 2 and then had the gall to complain that I woke her up on her vacation.
This is a huge bone of contention between my husband and me. He doesn’t see the problem just because his family is “difficult,” and they have no problem hosting us when we visit (ignoring that we are expected to pay for every meal and outing as thanks). Plus, my mother and sister visit all the time. But my family actually respects my time and career, and they clean up after themselves. Because I am home, the hosting always falls on me. I am tired of it. I am ready to just check into a hotel myself if my in-laws insist on coming. Please help.
—Hosting Horror
Dear Hosting Horror,
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If the hotel plan is in your budget, it sounds like a great one to me. The nice thing about your in-laws being extremely rude people with no social graces who have already started conflicts with you in your own home is that politeness is out the window here! You don’t have to worry about what they think about your being gone, just like they don’t worry about how it might come off when they complain about your work meetings.
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I do, however, think you need to worry a little about your relationship with your husband. The fact that he doesn’t care about how his relatives treat you or how you’re affected by their visits is not great. It sounds like his role in the situation isn’t bothering you too much—yet.
But maybe it deserves some of your attention. It’s possible you’re dealing with some mismatched cultural expectations about hospitality or closeness with family. Or it might be that you two have begun to get comfortable with dismissing each other’s needs and feelings. Either way, the conflict is worth addressing and working on because if the two of you can’t make things work, the solution is going to be a lot more complicated than a night in a hotel.
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Dear Prudence,
Earlier this year, I dated someone I’ll call “Ken” for a few months. It got pretty intense pretty quickly, and then things ended somewhat dramatically. I think we both freaked out in different ways. He had just gotten out of a long relationship and I was dealing with some family difficulty, and everything just exploded. I have spent the last six months working deeply on healing, focusing on work, friendships, and myself. Recently, Ken and I reconnected and began spending time together as friends. I have really enjoyed this new time. Our connection still feels very strong. At the same time, I feel much more stable in my own life, and when we discuss our past, I sense that he’s in a different place, too. It has made me wonder if there’s any possibility of us exploring a romantic relationship again. Is that a bad idea? Can exes ever reconcile? For what it’s worth, I’m feeling some extra anxiety because I know my friends and family don’t approve of him because they took care of me during the breakup, and I haven’t told them that we’re talking again.
—Not Ready to Move On
Dear Not Ready,
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Exes can absolutely reconcile. But your letter leaves me with a lot of questions: When you say things ended dramatically, what did that look like? How exactly did Ken “freak out”? How did you? Do you just sense that he’s in a different place now, or has he actually explained why he behaved the way he did, apologized if necessary, and made a convincing case that things will be different the next time around? Has he even said he wants to reconcile? What do your friends and family know about what he did that they wouldn’t be able to get over? If you have new evidence that would allow you to make a convincing case in his defense, why haven’t you?
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Honestly, I think a relationship that you need to hide from people who love you because you don’t think they’d understand is, at least 85 percent of the time, a relationship that will be bad for you. They have your best interest in mind. You have your best interest in mind too, but your mind is clouded by all the emotions around your “connection.” And don’t forget, that’s the very same connection that wasn’t enough to keep you from hurting each other the first time.
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You should step away from the Ken situation. And if you simply can’t resist giving this relationship another chance, at least open up to people who care about you and will help you protect yourself from getting hurt again.
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Get Even More Advice From the Dear Prudence Podcast
Dear Prudence,
What’s the polite, adult way to react when people deeply judge something they don’t know you are also going through? I tried changing the subject but it didn’t stick, and I suspect this will continue to be a problem for me for at least as long as the topic is salacious in the friend group.
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For context, an acquaintance of ours recently broke up with her boyfriend and announced over text that she was diving headfirst into casual encounters because she and her boyfriend haven’t had sex in nearly a year. At a recent party, everyone was talking about it saying things like “that’s unhealthy!” “how could you stay in a relationship like that” “we would never go without!” and overall all doing a wink-wink, nudge-nudge about having good sex lives and that not having sex is a death knell.
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Meanwhile, I have PTSD from some previous experiences, and some other mental health stuff I’m too ashamed to share here. My partner and I have sex maybe once or twice a month, and last year it was even less often. And I feel very guilty about the loss of my previously big sex drive, although my partner is kind and calm and good about just doing cuddles and kisses. But everyone talking about it repeatedly makes me feel really sad and ashamed, and I don’t know how to navigate around these conversations. We’re all in our early 30s and both personally and professionally connected, so I see these people a lot, even if I chose to spend more time with my other friends while this topic wears off.
—Wish I Were Doing It More
Dear Doing It More,
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The word in your letter that jumped out at me was “ashamed.” Shame is so painful to live with, and it—not the gossipy chit-chat in your friend group—is what’s really making you miserable. You say you have PTSD, and I think it’s important to consider how this might be contributing to your beating yourself up over the details of a sex life that, until the conversation at that party, was working out just fine for you. The experience you’re not having is not separate from your other mental health issues. Bring it up to your therapist and see if you can get help managing your reaction to your friends’ comments and possibly thinking about this differently. I suggest this especially because I suspect this won’t be the only time a topic of conversation in a social setting triggers your intense feeling that you aren’t good enough. In other words, it’s not about sex and how much you have it. At all.
Catch up on this week’s Prudie.
More Advice From Slate
I’m the mother of young children and was recently diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, it was caught early and is treatable. Nonetheless, I have been very tired and going through many treatments and doctors’ visits. My husband has informed me that a few days prior to surgery to have my tumor removed at the end of the month, his entire family has planned a party at my in-laws house a few hours away, in order to wish me well. While I very much appreciate the gesture, the party is ill-timed. On top of this, my husband’s family is very loud and boisterous and I just don’t have the energy to deal with this. My husband can’t understand why I’m less than enthusiastic about the party and is asking for me to be grateful. Am I being ungrateful or is it acceptable for me to express my appreciation for the gesture but explain that I simply won’t be able to attend?

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