Dear Carolyn: In the two years since I married my husband, I think I've come a long way in dealing with my boundary-smashing, passive-aggressive in-laws. Nowadays, other than some forehead-smacking on my part in private, we typically get along OK.
That said, I need help with arranging visits. They live out of town. My husband's sister and her husband, who live in our area, have a 3-year-old daughter, so my in-laws primarily visit them. My husband and I do not yet have children, and have gotten used to being the second priority. They have crossed the line in the past by asking to stay at our home (larger and more comfortable) rather than my sister-in-law's for the purpose of visiting their granddaughter. My husband very gently reminded them that our house is not a hotel; they should plan to stay with us when they visit primarily with us, and plan to stay with his sister when they visit her. Of course, we can all get together for meals, etc., but the plan in that instance was for them to sleep at our house and spend all their time at his sister's.
Here's our current problem: They do not ever ask to visit us; instead, they expect an explicit invitation from us for a specific date. When they schedule visits with my sister-in-law, they don't check with us about the dates. When the dates don't work for us, they imply that we should feel bad for not being available.
Spending time with them is stressful for me, especially hosting them. My husband has talked to his mom about feeling left out, but so far, nothing has changed. Do we need to try again, try something different, or let it go (until we have children, when they might have more interest in seeing us)?
-- Tired of in-law drama
A: I have a different take on when they "crossed the line." I see it as their proposing a practical way to visit both of their children's families -- enjoy Grandkid by day, you two by night -- with four added bonuses: (1) The newish parents get to wrangle their toddler to bed without the Eyes of the Family upon them; (2) The grandparents get a breather from toddler life, which can be exhausting; (3) The no-kids family is included as more than a guest to the kid party; (4) You get credit for hosting your in-laws while having them in your home on a very limited basis.
And for proposing this pragmatic coup, your in-laws got slapped on the wrists. I certainly don't condone slapping you back in retaliation, which their guilt-tripping resembles. But, I think they can be forgiven for being confused about what exactly you want from them. Last time they asked to visit you, they got "gently" corrected, and now you're annoyed that they don't ask to visit you?
So please entertain the possibility that they had a good idea. It won't erase your in-law problems, but it will allow equilibrium.