The holidays are approaching, which means family may be coming to visit. Even if you're on fabulous terms with your in-laws, spending extended periods of time with them still might be difficult. So how do you make it through a long visit? Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time with them:
Create a flexible itinerary.
Offer a few ideas for different activities. Having things planned out during their stay reduces the time spent sitting around getting on each other's nerves. Last-minute planning, by contrast, may make guests feel unimportant or unwanted.
Go see something.
If conversation with your in-laws isn't your strong suit, opt for entertainment options that don't require a great deal of personal interaction. By choosing to attend a movie, sporting event, play or art exhibit, you're spending time and creating memories with your in-laws, while successfully avoiding awkward lulls in conversation.
Set up a special afternoon...without you.
Buy tickets to a city tour or a local wine tasting. Give them suggestions for favorite delis, walking trails and small coffee shops, which provide the opportunity to explore the city by themselves. Offer to meet for dinner later at one of your favorite restaurants.
Have a backup plan to recharge.
If you know you can become overwhelmed at times by visitors, have a preplanned errand, chore or phone call to make, allowing yourself some breathing room. Discuss this beforehand with your spouse so you don't leave him or her guessing the reason for the sudden departure.
Host a gathering in your in-laws' honor.
Invite friends with similar interests to meet your in-laws. Your friends will create lively conversation over dinner and help the evening go smoothly, creating a buffer so you don't have to entertain alone.
Allow your in-laws to get involved.
While we all want to be host of the century, don't forget that your in-laws are family. More often than not, they will want to help out when it comes to dinners or children. Allow your in-laws to pick up the kids from school and take them to their after-school activities. Ask if they would like a special night with the grandkids, so that you and your spouse can go out for dinner. It's a win-win.
Retire to your room early.
Make your end-of-the-day routine well known, even if it means retiring to the comfort of your own bed with a glass of wine. Simply say, "Today has been great. I am going to start winding down. Feel free to stay up as late as you would like. See you all in the morning!" This will allow you to reclaim your evening by relaxing in your room.
Be willing to accept the worst-case scenario.
If you have consistently had bad experiences with hosting your in-laws, it may be worth the expense to offer to pay for comfortable accommodations close to your home. Say, "Our home is so small, and the kids really need their own space. We'd like to make your stay as pleasurable as possible." Pay for a hotel or point them in the direction of modestly priced lodging. If money is tight, you might say, "We look forward to your upcoming visit. I'm happy to research hotels close by if you give me a price point to stay within? We'd also like to offer the use of our car while you are here." Bottom line: Weigh your risk of hurting the relationship versus hurting your marriage. Although spending one week with your in-laws may seem overwhelming, it's in everyone's best interest to maintain a healthy relationship.
Diane Gottsman is a national modern manners and etiquette expert, industry leader, speaker, author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas. Diane specializes in executive leadership and etiquette training, with clients ranging from university students to Fortune 500 companies, and her seminars cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media. Her advice is backed by a master's degree in Sociology with an emphasis on adult behavior.