Drunk and Disorderly In-laws

December 26, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     I spent yet another holiday with my dysfunctional in-laws. They were drunk and argumentative before the sun even went down – a new holiday record!

    I am so angry that I let my husband push me into going over there again this year. It’s the same routine every holiday.

    First, we argue for weeks beforehand about whether or not we’re going. If we stay home it’s drama and alcohol-free, but my husband pouts because he wants to be with his family.

     If we go to their place, they all get drunk and act like they’re in high school. They all belong on reality t.v. Trust me, nothing would need to be scripted!

     When my husband is around them, he acts just like them. It makes me sick to my stomach. Our son shouldn’t be exposed to that level of dysfunction – his aunt, uncles, grandparents, and even his own daddy acting like that.

I feel so humiliated that even my closest friends don’t know what goes on. It’s hard enough to admit to myself that this is how my son spends his holidays, let alone having other people judge me about it.

     I feel like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. If I go over there, it’s a nightmare. If I insist on staying home and having a functional and pleasant holiday, my husband gives me the silent treatment. Either way, I pay for it.

     I’m already anticipating the blow-outs we’re going to have about where to spend New Year’s Eve…



Dear Linda,

     You’re in a tough situation, no doubt about it. I have two pieces of advice for you: (1) set boundaries that you are comfortable with and (2)make an appointment with a therapist right away. You need someone in your life to whom you can speak freely and at length.

     Boundaries can take many forms. You can see your in-laws for a couple of hours early enough in the day that they are likely to be sober and better behaved, you can stay home altogether and tolerate your husband’s anger, or you can agree to disagree and spend some or all of your holidays separately – you and your son at home or somewhere else and your husband with his family of origin.  

     If your husband will go with you to therapy, that would be best. It might be helpful to make a pact to only discuss the issue with the therapist in session. That way, you can contain the bad feelings to a certain extent and have more peace at home.

     Even if your husband won’t attend sessions with you, you need someone to speak with about this issue. Identifying core issues and seeking workable solutions is gut-wrenching when the issues are emotionally charged. Do it for your son, if not yourself.

    Please e-mail me and let me know how your family is doing. My heart is with you.

My very best,


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