Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have just purchased our first home. We are very excited to finally host all the friends and family who kindly fed us over the years.
My husband is agnostic, I am atheist, and we do not say grace. My father-in-law always says grace and insists everyone bow their head and participate. I have always respected this in his home, but do not want this in my own home.
How do I explain our “house policy” without causing a rift? Husband thinks we should just go along, but this makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Ironically, my father-in-law does not practice what he preaches and will easily hold a grudge for 50 years.
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The logical solution would be to have my husband speak with his father, but he is unwilling to do this.
How can a daughter-in-law ask her father-in-law not to pray? Seems like a cold request, but I’m genuinely uncomfortable with the practice. I am also very bad at having difficult conversations and will stutter, sweat, flush and basically panic before strangling out the words.
Your father-in-law can’t make you pray!
And I, apparently, can’t pre-empt these questions: “How do I (action) without (consequences of action)?”
You can’t explain your no-grace policy rift-free unless your father-in-law decides not to go rifty on you — and that’s beyond your control.
So, all anyone can do is decide whether a desired action is worth the feared consequences.
You’ve got a partner in this decision through marriage, so here’s your only play: You and your husband figure out, together, what actions and consequences you both can live with.
Since your husband has decided his interests (he’s nonreligious and it’s his home) aren’t worth defending at the cost of family (that 50-year grudge, wrong as it may be), then your options are limited — unless you decide your interests (nonreligious, your home) are worth defending at the cost of family (you vs. husband, husband vs. his dad).
It’s clunky to spell it all out this way, but this dissection shows what’s really at stake here, and that’s how you avoid unintended consequences.
Re: Prayer: I am a devout Christian. My grown daughter does not accept any organized religion. Respect should go in every direction, but I am on the side of the daughter-in-law. This is her home.
However, it’s hard when other family members are present who are used to sitting quietly until a prayer is said.
My daughter has begun a tradition of having everyone at the table state what they are thankful for.
This might be a nice solution. Respect brings family harmony. I can pray on my own time.
Elegant solution, thank you.
Re: Prayer: In my opinion it’s as wrong to insist that the faithful not pray as it is to insist that the nonreligious participate in prayer. Why can’t they sit in respectful silence while the father-in-law says grace?
Re: Grace: Reading my own words, I can see my unbecoming stubborn streak. Family harmony is even more important to me than making a point (which I love to do). A light but heartfelt “thank you” would be both genuine and even fun. I can do that!
Gracefully Declining again
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