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Think twice before snubbing the in-laws

TODAY contributing psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz urges caution when deciding whom to invite, or exclude, from a family function.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Q. We are pregnant with our first child at 38! We are incredibly excited. A close friend is giving me a baby shower. The horrible problem is that I feel obligated to invite my husband’s brother's wife and their teenage daughter.

The wife is rude, condescending, jealous and critical. The daughter is a disrespectful, troublemaking, lying, irritating 14-year-old with Goth/punk attire who thinks the world revolves around her. (The entire family agrees, trust me.)

I do not want them at the shower. The mother would be difficult enough to handle, but the daughter’s presence would be terribly embarrassing.

Is there any way I can get out of inviting at least the teenage daughter without being conspicuous, since I want everyone else's teenage daughter to be invited? Or should I just suffer and invite them both? (I know they'll come.) I feel like I have a right to be selfish since this is our first and probably only baby, and I don't want to be stressed and uncomfortable any more than I already am. I just don't want my desires to be obvious. Thanks for any help you can offer.

A. There is no clear answer here. Your question is not actually about whether you should invite these two to a particular event, but about negotiating relationships over the long haul. Because these people will be in your future for a long time, I advise you to think twice about excluding them.

I can understand your wish to make the baby shower as enjoyable as possible, but you must consider the bigger picture. You may well conclude that the potential long-term gain of inviting them outweighs the short-term unpleasantness of having them there.

You don’t want to snub this woman and her daughter because of their position in your extended family. Like it or not, these people are a part of your life, now and in years ahead.

If you are wondering whether there’s a way to temporarily remove them from your life when you wish, without it being obvious to all concerned, the answer is no.

As you know, if you set up a situation where you have clearly excluded them, you are making an overt statement about your distaste for them. They will know it, and all your relatives will know it, too.

One option, however, is to make their exclusion consistent with the guest list. For example, you can make it a friends-only shower and invite only the two mothers plus friends, but no other siblings, cousins or relatives.

Or you can invite no teenage daughters, so that this particular girl will not stand out as the only one who is disinvited.

Swallow hard, then invite themAlternatively, you can invite them along with everybody else. What is the worst that can happen? Even dislikable people are capable of behaving well during a festive occasion. You will have plenty of other guests there, which will diffuse the intensity of their presence. And if the entire family dislikes them, they will understand your predicament, because they likely have felt the same obligation to include these two in family functions.

Sure, their presence might make you stressed and uncomfortable during the shower. But, to an extent, whether you suffer is a choice. They can make you suffer only as much as you are willing. You can resolve to have a good time at the shower and not to let them bother you. Don’t check out each comment or expression they make. Limit your involvement with them. Thank them kindly for their gift, even if you don’t like it.

Being strategic about a decision like this is smart, because it will have later ramifications.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Sometimes you should deal graciously with difficult relatives for the sake of future family relationships.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .