STFU: How can I deal with one family member who always ruins holiday parties?

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I’m slated to host Christmas Eve at my home again, and last year it was fun… except for one uncle ruined it with snarky comments and flat-out negativity. He bitched about the food, the tackiness of the decorations, and the gifts people gave.

At the time, I was more concerned about hosting duties and making sure my family was having a good time, so I just tried to roll with it. Nobody in the family had the guts to say anything, except to talk about it after he left.

This year though… fuck that, I don’t want any of that shit in my house.

How do I keep his horrible attitude in line in my own home? My initial response to myself is “just tell him to shut the fuck up” but I know that would cause more trouble than what that’s worth.

Ooh, you know we love doing cut ‘n’ paste conflict resolution! Obviously, no one phrase is going to work for every family situation or communication style, but we’ve wrastled up a few ideas for things you could quietly but firmly say in response to your uncle’ negative comments:

  • I really don’t appreciate your tone of voice. Please respect that a lot of work/effort/thought went into _______.
  • Sounds like you’re unhappy about ______, and while I sympathize, the rest of us are trying to enjoy our evening.
  • We decided to ______, and I hope you can respect our wishes even if you disagree.
  • I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m trying to enjoy myself tonight and your negative comments are really interfering.
  • I love you, but your negativity this evening is making it difficult to enjoy your company. Please be quiet.
  • It sounds like you have some strong opinions about _____. Perhaps next year you should host. This year, however, we’re hosting, and if you’re unable to enjoy your time here, you should consider leaving.

Ok, Homies. Your turn!

How do you firmly but respectfully deal with family members who ruin holiday parties?

Comments on STFU: How can I deal with one family member who always ruins holiday parties?

  1. I seriously think I love each of you. This is the funniest blog and the funniest comments, for that matter. I was pissed at my negative butthole ruins-everything husband but I’m laughing it up with a glass of wine now. Thank you!!

  2. I don’t know how to start a thread, so I will just put this out there any maybe someone who does will oblige or tell me how.

    I am beginning to have issue with the my daughter/ couples who “split” their time among the two families of origin by splitting Christmas Day, right down the middle. They say this is only fair. While extremely happy to see them especially the one who drives so far with the grandson, to visit, I don’t think they are aware of the complications this also presents for other “in town” family or the hostesses, both me and the son in laws mother. I swore I wouldn’t be a complaining, never happy MIL, nor do I want to guilt trip anyone. However, as the “half day hostess” I find such an arrangement really puts the whole day on a fast track time frame. Our family really just slacked off and pigged out on Christmas Day since they were small. This was the ONLY day I can relax a bit late in the day and is my FAVORITE as I kinda get to be off duty, FINALLY.
    I work my rear off all day every day leading up till Christmas Morning. It becomes a full time job. I am NOT young, and frankly it is beginning to be a tremendous amount of work, it always was, to do all the shopping, decorating, grocery shopping, meal prep. etc. While I used to really enjoy this, even when it was stressful and hard work, more and more I am beginning to think it simply isn’t worthwhile only to have the day totally interupted as they rush though the morning in order to pack up and go to the OTHER mother. It puts a downer on the day, as my other daughters are sad to see them go, and try and I might NOT to be a blubber sob mess, I am so sad by their departure (visits are always too short) that it not only makes a happy day sad, my other daughters kinda resent the “attention” of the day is totally stopped for the “goodbyes”.
    The meal and everything we “do” has to be altered to accomadate this and worse, after such a downer the rest of the day is anticlimatic, and well just sad and deflated. I have tried to adjust everything I do to “go along, with this” and on alternating years, we end up holding off everything until they get there so it is no better being the late day “mom” than it is being the early day “mom”. I feel like a person split in half.
    This daughter lives out of town, so it is really great she and her husband take the effort and WANT to come, but I hate what this does to Christmas Day. Yes, half is better than nothing, but there has to be a better way. Nothing I can do about it, and after this year maybe not an issue, as I doubt they will come as the stress is huge on them too, and now they have a child….they (rightly so) look forward to spending Christmas at home. But, realizing there are many such “half day” families I would like to hear your take on this “splitting” from the hostess/mom perspective.

    • Sounds like an easy fix to me: Holidays are alternated between the two houses. You get Christmas one year, they get it next year. Whoever doesn’t get it gets whatever other major gathering happens around the holidays: birthday, Thanksgiving, whatever.

      • I totally agree, that way NO one has to be “split” and ruin the actual day. But, they won’t do it this way, in part, because HIS mom won’t and pouts, so I get this “mess”and so far it hasn’t really worked well once. I cut back, speed through, and frankly somewhat resent this “arrangement”. It is just too much effort gone to the “dogs” lately. PLUS, and this is NO ones fault but my own, I can’t get it “right” no matter what so that THEY don’t feel guilty and stressed too. I forsee my other daughters, also putting me in a rock and a hard place here (not to sound too selfish, as it stresses everyone, and one daughter is so tired of the sads and the attention diverted she threatened not to come and is jealous and says they feel second string to this daughter. It has made the whole holiday stressful, which is very sad, as if it were just me, I am sure I would STILL resent it but be better able to just enjoy the time we have by scaling down a lot. I put this out there so that when making a decision couples might try and see it from the “other side”. What I am afraid of is that EVERYONE will just find alternatives and I will be ALONE at Christmas. My father passed in October, my soon to be ex had major surgery right before the holidays and recovered at my home as he has NO relatives to help him. I didn’t NOT handle this well this year and one daughter (not the one splitting) rushed everything so much, I am ashamed to admit I just gave up, got a bit snippy, put the presents in the middle of the room (though I wanted each family to hand out their own) and take some time to watch and limit the mess for the toddlers sake, I caved to the rush rush and we had a scene….it was the other daughters passive agressive? Anyway, I am ashamed at how I acted, but to be firm, that NO, we are taking our time here as people put a lot of effort into their gift buying and I don’t want to rush the “occassion”, but I just dumped them in the middle of the room, and said “I can’t please everyone” so HERE, and went outside to smoke. I have NEVER be so manipulated to let it get to me but it did this year. ENOUGH, I CAN”T please everyone and frankly the alternative being totally alone isn’t something I am looking forward to, either. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. The thought that other families are “happy” on this day…the WHOLE day and I am alone because it is all my fault kinda sickens me. Wow, I think I will plan a vacation next year for myself. So messed up.

        • Mitzy, would you feel comfortable with Christmas Eve? Or alternating who get’s the first half of the day and the second half? Or alternating who gets Christmas Day and who gets Christmas Eve? My extended family really adores Christmas Eve, allowing the opening of one present prior to bed. That energy helped the kids sleep, knowing they had one of their presents, usually under their arms as they sleep. It’s really difficult to satisfy both sets of (grand/) parents, so I know your daughter would be happy if you could give her an idea of what a compromise that you are willing to take is.

    • My MIL gets x-mass day with her kids and stepkids (6 grown adult children , spouses, and assorted grandkids and great grandkids, around 30 people) , His 100 year old grandma gets the Saturday before with my husband’s huge extended family (over 50+ people including great-great grandchildren), and the M-I-L’s extended family – My MIL’s 11 brothers and sisters, spouses, and various descendants – closing in on around 80 to 100 people now, rent a hall and get the weekend after x-mass. (Both sides of my husband’s family are prolific farm folk. We had a family reunion of his Paternal grandmother’s family and topped 1500 attendees!)

      My family of 5 grabs an hour or two with my Mom, Dad, and older sister on Xmass eve since we don’t put on a huge to-do now that my parents are in their 80’s and Mom is suffering dementia and doesn’t want to go through the stress of putting something together. No way am I even trying to host anything. Thank fate that with all my Sister-in-laws, I’ll never have to!

    • My instinct is along the same lines as Shelly G – why not have them for Xmas Eve? You could have a nice dinner together (and it doesn’t even have to be turkey!), the kids could open a present each before bed, and then in the morning you can have a holiday breakfast (by which I mean a boozy breakfast – it’s not just my family that does this, right?) and they can do the rest of their presents before going to other mother for xmas dinner. You then have a nice leisurely day with the other girls to cook and eat and unwrap presents when you want.

      My sister and BIL are in a similar situation, since his parents are divorced and he has small halfsiblings on both sides he wants to see, plus our parents as well. They’ve tried a few variations, including visiting all three homes on the same day and only visiting one. neither went down well with the various families involved! Now it’s usually xmas eve with our parents, since we have a tradition of going to see a film that day and a nice dinner in the evening, then the half days with his parents’ families based on what suits them best (handily, one family do presents in the morning, the other in the afternoon), or one parent for xmas and one for boxing day.

  3. Err its simple.

    You wait until he says something negative then infront of everyone you slowly approach him. Raise you arm so the back of your hand is adjacent with the side of his place. With a consecutive movement you greet his face with the back of your hand, be sure to follow through. Before giving him a chance to speak you must say, “B*tch please”

    You have now established dominance.

  4. I like the passive aggressive suggestions here and if a rude encounter happens where I’m not hosting an event will be pleased to use them.

    However, if I am hosting, I simply don’t invite these people (my mother who lives next door included in that list). In my mind, it’s really not worth the harassment to invite someone who one ups everything you say, criticizes every effort you’ve made or causes all of your other guests to feel unwelcome or so irritated that they have to talk about that person after they leave.

    When confronted about exclusion, I tell the truth (in a tactful way). If every other guest was upset because you complained about the punch being spiked, perhaps you could bring you own bowl and ingredients to make regular punch. If your conversations were loud, perhaps you could try to lower your voice or request an outdoor venue that is suitable (which we could even coordinate together).

    Lying isn’t an option since that would only reinforce their already misguided behavior. I’ve met some people who have simply never been confronted about their wrong doings (make sure confrontation is done in private though).

    Exclusion has been my best tool for keeping these people in line as everyone that meets me learns very quickly that I have a no drama policy to keep my family and myself happy and functional. I’m sure we all have more important things to be doing during the holidays anyway. 🙂

    Best of luck to everyone with their celebration situations and happy holidays!

  5. An uncle of my husband’s has ruined several family parties, at his house or other people’s houses. We can’t host anything in our studio appartement. It makes it that much more difficult because we’re not the hosts. At Christmas last year I was pregnant, there was loud music and I could feel the bass in my womb, so I asked to turn down the bass. He told me it was not my house. I said it was disturbing me because of the baby. His answer: I don’t give a fuck about your baby. Nice, right?
    After that, we had very little contact. Recently we went to their house for dinner and after we got home he started sending SMSs accusing me of stealing something he couldn’t find. When it was found, no excuses came my way. And this Christmas we’re supposed to be with him again. The alternative is to spend it alone, my husband, the baby and I, which is really tempting for me but I didn’t manage to convince my husband. Every time that foul mouthed man ruins the evening, his son talks to him about it afterwards, but it’s too late: he made everyone uncomfortable or unhappy.
    I’m not sure I can use any of these ideas to deal with him. I will read it thoroughly. Meanwhile, any specific ideas when the person isn’t someone from your family and with whom you have a rather formal relationship?

    • Ask the son to be your wingman ahead of time: “[son], will you please be ready to talk to your dad about insulting me before it happens, and/or when it starts?”

      And really, if he doesn’t give a fuck about his nephew’s child, he’s a shitty human who needs to be ostracized for his shit. Ask your husband to think about if he really wants to be involved with someone who says that.

      Do you have some good friends who might host? Or you could stay home and have video chat dates with the people that you care about.

  6. Simply stop inviting him. And if he asks why, be honest. You don’t have to be mean or cruel or angry but you can be honest in a loving way. Why make everyone suffer because of one unhappy person? Or you can invite him and as soon as he acts up you can say, “If you’re unhappy you are free to go.” If it happens a second time after you’ve made that statement, then you simply walk up to him and say, “It’s time for you to leave now.” And help him to the door with his coat. The only way people are going to respect you is if you set up very strong boundaries. And once you start, it gets easier each time. I suggest you start.

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