Ask Me Anything

Do I Have to Invite People Into My Home for Holidays Who I Know Don’t Like Me?

Dear Adrienne:

Do I have to invite people into my home for holidays who I know don’t like me? My sister-in-law speaks ill of me everywhere despite my many attempts to make peace with her! This year is our turn to host the family seder (we take turns annually), and I don’t want her in my home. I adore my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew, but she comes with the package. I don’t imagine she wants to be with me either. Why do I have to be “big” about it for my husband’s sake? Why doesn’t my comfort matter?

Slave to the family.

Dear Slave:

The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously said “between stimulus and response there is a space; In that space is your ability to choose your response. In your response lies your growth and your freedom!”

This in no way minimizes the reality of your disdain or discomfort. Nor does it imply that your sense of reality is faulty. It just means that your freedom and growth, especially at this season of freedom, are in your own hands in how you respond both to her and to yourself!  

The American writer Ambrose Redmoon says “courage is not the absence of fear; it is the acknowledgment that something is MORE IMPORTANT than your fear” I would assert that in this case family peace (Shalom Bayit) is more important than your disdain! If you felt that reaching out to her to try and make peace once again would be an option then, by all means, do so. Perhaps sending Passover flowers or a card in advance might smooth the path? Maybe calling to invite her personally and asking her to bring a dish she makes that ‘everyone loves’ might be worthwhile? Send out an email to everyone asking for any food sensitivities in them or their children so you can ‘cater’ to them somewhat. In the end, you can not control anything but your reaction to her and her provocations.

They say that when you are going into bad weather, you should wear a raincoat; you will need to wear an emotional one to pull this off! Here are some mantra’s or mindsets you might consider to prepare you for this task

  1. Have a seating chart and place yourself at the other end of the table.
  2. Have the children ‘drive’ the seder by asking all of the nieces and nephews to prepare something/anything about what freedom means to them. This keeps things not just true to the spirit of Passover (which requires ensuring the children are engaged and learning) but also keeps the focus off adult interactions  
  3. Realize that her not liking you does not make YOU unlikable! Hold your head high and feel pride and pleasure in knowing that you are ‘doing the right thing for the sake of Shalom Bayit.”
  4. Prepare a list of neutral phrases to have on the tip of your tongue should she say something hurtful to you; things like “I am sorry you feel that way” or “I wish we saw eye to eye on matters” or simply ‘hmm.’
  5. Remind yourself that ‘comfort’ is often the antithesis of growth. Imagine your discipline and classiness as spiritual aerobics and go for the burn!

Doing the right thing here (for the sake of Shalom Bayit) is in the end very liberating. May you taste the bread of freedom as a result of your efforts.

Adrienne Gold Davis

Adrienne is a Momentum Trip Leader.

Adrienne was a Canadian television personality specializing in fashion, style, and beauty for almost two decades before becoming a senior lecturer and community liaison at the Village Shul in Toronto, as well as an international Jewish educator. Adrienne has appeared on all major Canadian television networks and has served as the event host for dozens of charities and organizations.

Adrienne and her husband live in Toronto and have two sons.

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