Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

Last year Christmas was a disaster. We went round to my husband's mother and stepfather and his stepfather was so rude and critical of the children that I never wanted to see him again. This year we're going to have Christmas at home, and my husband wants to ask them, too. I'd love to see my mother-in-law, who adores the children, but the idea of having her husband in the house makes me feel ill. I don't see why I should have to put up with having my Christmas ruined again. How can I somehow make it all right? Yours sincerely, Dottie

 

Virginia says... You can first get the idea that it is "your" Christmas out of your head. It is not your Christmas. It is everyone's Christmas and in order for Christmas to be remotely tolerable, nearly everyone has to put up with some hardship. Your husband has to put up with you wincing every time his stepfather opens his mouth. Your mother-in-law has to put up with the presence of her husband – I'm sure his comments make her squirm – and your stepfather has to put up with the behaviour of what he considers your appalling children. So get out of your head that Christmas is perfect for any of us. It's not. If you can get through it without a major row, a tense atmosphere, or one of those tiny remarks that rankle through to New Year's Day, and with the children reasonably happy, then in my books you've been successful.

You've got to have the man round. You can't not invite him. However you could perhaps ask your husband to have a word with either his mother or his stepfather and say that you do get terribly upset if the kids are criticised and if he can keep the comments down, Christmas would be a lot nicer for everyone. That seems reasonable.

It might be that he won't be quite as rude because this year Christmas is at your house, not his. Or, if he does make sarcastic remarks, tease him unmercifully. "Ah yes, the old moaner! Wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of moaning, would it? Calm down, dear. It's Christmas, remember. Goodwill to all men. Come on. Get out the milk of human kindness or you won't get any turkey!" It'll infuriate him, but at least it'll get your gripes out in the open.

But best of all, of course, would be to keep your mouth shut and not rise to the bait. Say to yourself that this uncivilised prat is certain to says things that are totally unacceptable, and rather than be surprised and shocked when he says them, just expect them. That's how he is. There's nothing you can do about it. Hey ho. It's only for a day. You don't have to see him for the rest of the year. Let's face it, he's a sad, grumpy old thing. And why not get the brownie points by being a complete saint by putting up with it.

That way, even if you find steam rising from your head along with the pudding, when you're having a quick fag in the garden to calm down, at least you'll ensure that everyone else's Christmas isn't ruined as well as yours.

Readers say...

Do it for others

 

Christmas brings painful problems for those of us in second marriages and I feel for your mother-in-law as much as for you.

Try to lower your expectations for your own Christmas. Concentrate on those you love and reward yourself later.

Invite them over. Everyone but you will be happy about it and the children may not notice a bit of tension. They will have their lovely grandmother and she will have them. This is not about being a martyr. My own experience of many years suggests that, where children and other people I love are involved, I cannot live with a Christmas that makes any of them sad.

Julie Harrison By email

 

Don't invite them

If your children were upset by your stepfather-in-law last year, then don't invite them, as Christmas is, after all, really for children. Tell them you are having Christmas lunch out this year and that you will pop round to see them on Christmas Eve. Hopefully, this will limit the damage.

Anita Ashford By email

 

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I'm 15 and my parents have just told me they want to separate. In one way I knew this was coming because they've been rowing so much, but I still feel terribly upset. I so love them both and I've tried to talk to each of them to persuade them to go to counselling, but they refuse and Dad gets angry with me for suggesting it. Dad's moving out after Christmas, and until then, the atmosphere is terrible. I can't bear being at home. But if I say I'll move out and stay with a friend until they've sorted things out, they both tell me I'm being childish. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Michelle

What would you advise Michelle to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent. co.uk, or go to independent. co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (www.finewinesellers.co.uk)

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sustainability Manager

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

    Graduate Sustainability Professional

    Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

    Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

    £850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

    £100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary