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How to survive Thanksgiving with your in-laws

Not all of us are lucky enough to fall in love with our in-laws and if there is some tension between you and yours, holiday time can seem even more stressful. With that in mind we wanted to offer some simple survival strategies for getting through Thanksgiving day dinner unscathed – and without feeling like tossing some mashed turnip in your mother-in-law’s lap.

Mother-in-law on Thanksgiving

Stay (outwardly) calm

There is nothing worse than feeling your stress level ramp up every hour on the hour, starting the minute you arrive at your in-law’s house. When this happens it’s only a matter of time before you blow your top and take aim at whoever is causing you the most anxiety – not a good way to end Thanksgiving day dinner. So before you let anxiety get the better of you, have a plan in place for channeling inner calm, rather than outward anger at any rude remarks or frustrating things that are happening around you. Get up and refill your water glass, take a few deep breaths, pretend to have to go use the bathroom so you can get a few minutes to yourself to regroup – anything that will keep you from having a full-on meltdown.

Kill them with kindness

Although it may be tempting to bust out your best sarcastic remarks and backhanded compliments, often the best way to deal with any unsavory characters around the Thanksgiving dinner table is to just be sweet as pie – so sweet that they won’t know what hit them. As you smile and nod in agreement and compliment mean Aunt Julia’s choice of polyester pantsuit, you can be as sarcastic as you want on the inside. What they can’t hear won’t hurt them and the fewer waves you make, the better your evening will go. Confrontation with your in-laws can only end badly. Even if your husband agrees with you and is having his own private meltdown over the mashed potatoes, they are still his family and he may not feel comfortable jumping to your defense should a full blown fight break out.

Have an exit strategy

Assuming you live close enough to drive home (rather than have to stay over) have a plan in place (OK, an excuse lined up) that allows you to make an early exit should things start to get out of hand. Discuss this plan with your husband well before Thanksgiving dinner (as in weeks before) so he isn’t caught off guard when you abruptly leave the table as his mother cuts the pumpkin pie. Better yet, have him call his parents and let them know that, although highly unlikely, you have been having migraine headaches lately, and you may have to make an early exit should one strike you during dinner. This way, if you are at your wit’s end, you can start to moan while rubbing your temples and hobble to the couch to lie down as everyone else fights amongst themselves. While we don’t condone lying in day-to-day life, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do in order to survive Thanksgiving dinner.

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