Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Sister-in-law’s a real Miss Bossypants

 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband’s oldest sister is on the bossy side and typically arranges family gatherings.

My husband and I purchased a new house and offered to host a holiday gathering so everybody could see our 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. 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.”

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

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.

Instead, you can also just decline to engage her and hold your course. For example, she suggests room overhauls and you say, “Hm, interesting,” and arrange things as you wish. She suggests side dishes and you say, “Thanks, but please don’t bring food. We’re cooking.” If she says five things in an email, you can deal with one in your response and just not mention the rest.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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