Q: I’ve never gotten along with my in-laws. Three years ago there was a huge argument and we haven’t spoken since. At that time they told my wife they’d pay for a divorce if she would end the marriage. Now my son is graduating and he wants my in-laws to be there. I want to forgive and get along for the sake of my son but I’m just so angry. What should I do?
A: Situations like this one are extremely common. In home after home, family gatherings that are supposed to be filled with love and warmth end up turning into tense, uncomfortable confrontations. But “extremely common” isn’t the same thing as “unavoidable.” You’re an intelligent and morally responsible human being, and you can make choices that will lead to positive change.
One option is to be honest. Let your son know that it would simply be too awkward and uncomfortable to invite the in-laws, and that for his sake, you don’t want the graduation to turn into a family debacle. Naturally, you and your son (not to mention your wife) will have to be in agreement on this.
A second choice would be to invite them, but ensure that all graduation-related activities take place at a neutral location, such as a restaurant or community centre. If the party disintegrates into a shouting match, politely excuse yourselves and take refuge in the tranquillity of your home.
There is a third option. You could approach the graduation with an entirely different attitude. Try to see it as a time for reaching out in kindness and grace. Look for opportunities to demonstrate love to some unlovely people. Take the initiative to extend an olive branch. You might be surprised at how well your peacemaking gesture is received!
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