Father-in-law won’t take the hint

Her needy father-in-law is seriously cramping their style.

Our elder has some tips on helping him to get out of the house.

Dear EWC

My husband and I have been married almost 20 years. We have a very active lifestyle. Always hanging out with friends, at our house or their house or elsewhere. We have a small family business that consists of myself, my husband and my father-in-law. We work five days a week together. My father in law has no life so he just shows up at our house or our friends’ house almost every weekend. He seeks us out to entertain him. It’s too much. How do we tell him that every weekend is too much?

Elder TwoBitsWorth replies

Without knowing all the details, your situation could easily spiral into an ugly confrontation- both at home and at work. I suspect that’s why you are seeking another point of view.

Which steps to take—to improve things for everyone—depend, in part, on the nature of your current relationship with “Dad.”  As an example, is your husband close to his dad? If so, it seems logical that he help your father-in-law expand his area of interests.

My guess is that “Dad” is like a lot of men (especially of his generation) who simply define themselves by their work, especially if they have an ownership position. He is probably as bored (with his life) as you are frustrated by the close proximity. As a result, let’s turn our attention to ways he can break current patterns.

I mean, we ALL like predictability to some degree. On the other hand, there is more to life (as you have demonstrated) than doing the same thing weekend after weekend. For him to change, though, he has to see a need or an incentive. Feeling he is not welcome will NOT be a productive motivator. Instead you and your husband will need to carefully help him dream about things he could/should be doing. To that end, do you or your husband recall anything—I mean ANYTHING—that may have taken your father-in-law’s mind off work? Church? Sports? Politics? Hobbies?

Are there any people in his life who he appreciates? How about travel? Or volunteer work (such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters or SCORE—a group that counsels small business owners who are just starting out)??

Once you have a sense of why he sticks at home, as well as interests that may be able to be tapped, then you can slowly plant the seeds. Put another way, my guess is simply saying, “Hey you need to get more interests” is not going to work. A better way might be to say, “I thought you used to like photography (or something you can insert here). Maybe—if you’re lucky—we’ll treat you to a six week class if you’re free on Saturdays.”

People—being human—only do what meets their interests most times. The problem is that we can all get stuck in a rut—and it appears that your father-in-law is no exception. In closing, I can’t emphasize enough that you need to go slowly- listening to his needs and planting a few seeds. This pattern will not change overnight but he WILL grow if you and your husband resolve now to help “Dad” more fully enjoy his life in ways he may not have anticipated.

Meantime, are there times when you and your husband can plan monthly or quarterly nights away from the home- maybe for some activity that would NOT interest “Dad”? In other words, while you are helping him expand his world, you and your husband can enjoy time away.

I hope my thoughts help and that you will feel free to write back.

Reference 411153


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