Carolyn Hax: Just ignore bossy in-law’s hissy fits

August 15, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband’s oldest sister is on the bossy side and typically arranges family gatherings. I am usually a good communicator and good at picking battles, so I figured I could handle her.

My husband and I purchased a new house and offered to host a holiday gathering so everybody could see our new place. Since then, his sister has made our lives very difficult. She comes over to our house suggesting total overhauls of rooms and gave me a menu — most of the items she is planning on bringing, claiming that “you don’t know how our family does things yet.” My husband tried being blunt with her: “We are hosting this holiday and are happy to see you then. But until then, let us do it our way.”

She sends daily emails dictating all sorts of things.

Evidently her husband and my in-laws let her get her way because it is easier. I don’t want to do that or fight with her about every side dish for the rest of my life. How do I balance this?

PUSHED

Your husband was blunt with her; what he “tried” to do was rein her in by being blunt with her.

At this point, it appears as if you and your husband both need to accept that stopping her bossiness isn’t a realistic goal. A goal that is realistic is to host this gathering the way you want to, no matter what Bossy says.

You can achieve that by pushing back whenever she pushes, but that sounds exhausting and needlessly high-conflict.

You can do this because you have two things in your favor: your house and your husband. You can invite whom you want, serve what you want, and present a unified front against whatever fit Bossy decides to pitch. She can react by making a lot of noise and even by trying to turn the family against you, but if you stay calm and firm and welcoming, she probably will have little leverage — at least not enough to overcome her own history of annoying the snot out of the very people she’s trying to get on her side.

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