Dear Dr. Yael,
Yom tov with my in-laws always causes drama. During the year, we spend time alone with my in-laws and things are always happy and calm, but over yom tov, when the family comes together (specifically my brother-in-law, who lives in another state), there is always drama. My brother-in-law is very sensitive and likes things his way. He feels that since he lives in another state, his family should get whichever rooms they want, get preference etc. Last yom tov, he didn’t want to give us more than one room (for a family of five) because he said his youngest needs his own room and he doesn’t want him to feel bad and ask him to move in with his siblings when we come. We told my in-laws it was fine and we would stay home or stay with my parents, but that caused more drama. My in-laws were very upset and actually yelled at me that we always cause drama and why couldn’t we just be flexible. This was very hurtful because we never have any drama with my in-laws, except for when my brother-in-law and his family are in. I know that my brother-in-law fights with his parents also (whereas we never have any conflict in our relationship), so I’m not sure why my in-laws blame us for the drama. I’m not looking forward to a yom tov filled with more drama, but staying away isn’t an option as it just exacerbates the drama. My wife is not close to her brother and has always told me that he is more difficult. She gets very upset when she sees her parents taking her brother’s side and catering to him. How can I navigate this situation in a way that mitigates the drama and keeps everyone happy?
This does not sound like such a simple situation. It sounds like perhaps your in-laws are scared of your brother-in-law and that is why they cater to him. While it is hard to watch and seems very unfair, you likely don’t want to be the kind of person that others are scared of. This is a mantra you and your wife will have to keep saying to yourself. Because you and your wife seemingly are more easy going, you probably get “the raw end of the deal.” Really you don’t want to be known as the difficult one just so you can get preference, but it’s definitely understandable how this is unfair and hard. Perhaps you can talk to your in-laws when it is not yom tov, so you can explain how you and your wife feel, but when it comes to children, we often turn a blind eye and it may be extremely hard for your in-laws to admit that their son is a difficult person. While it would be great if your in-laws would be able to admit that your brother-in-law is difficult and they appreciate your easy going nature, this will likely never happen. What you have to realize is that this has likely been going on for a long time, so your in-laws are stuck in an unhealthy pattern with your brother-in-law. It would probably take a long time and professional help for them to be able to realize how the relationship isn’t healthy and steps they need to take to ameliorate the relationship. From what you related, it doesn’t seem like this is going to happen. Thus, you and your wife need to figure out a way to not get hurt or upset and to realize that your in-laws are coming from a place of fear, not that they favor your brother-in-law and his family. This may help take the sting out of it a little.
Nothing you do will really calm the drama, but if you and your wife can change your perspective, it may make everything easier to bear and thus make you feel calmer (which will ultimately calm the house down as well). Try hard to remember that this has nothing to do with your in-laws’ love for you or your wife and that they are just stuck and likely afraid of your brother-in-law. Hatzlacha with navigating yom tov and try hard to rise above!