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Monday question: My in-laws are making me sick!

Posted by Robin Abrahams  April 26, 2010 06:18 AM

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Monday question time! Take your mind off your own work problems with this family dilemma:

My husband and I have a problem - with his parents. For years we have been eating as organically as possible and we almost never eat processed foods. In the past year, we also kicked a longstanding smoking habit in order to keep our health in line with our food philosophy (and myriad other benefits, of course). Everyone in our lives knows how we eat and understands and tries to accommodate if they don't always practice the same methods. Unfortunately, when we visit my in-laws, my father-in-law smokes constantly in the house and my mother-in-law serves almost entirely processed & packaged foods. We end up leaving with headaches, stomach aches, and anxiety on how to confront the problem. My husband has a very sensitive digestive system and this food will cause trouble for hours, if not days. I am incredibly mindful of what is appropriate and that we should just sit and be good guests and take what is served without complaint. But, at the same time, they are our family and it's caused so much stress and discomfort for my husband and me. He does not come from a very open family, so we are trying to determine how to approach the subject but know it will cause some grief for his parents.

What do you think? Generally, I prefer not to inject any of my own opinions on the Monday questions, because I don't want you to be influenced by my framing of the problem. But does it seem to you that there is a lot of psychological subtext here? It strikes me that the entire family -- husband, wife, and in-laws -- are all awfully tightly wound.

I'll post my response on Friday, as usual, and I've got a health-related conversation topic for this Wednesday -- it's health & body week at the Conduct Spa!
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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