Should I avoid my SSPX in-laws?

I have a sticky family situation. My mother-in-law, father-in-law, and adult sister-in-law all attend an SSPX chapel.

My husband and I live about twenty minutes from them but I have refused to have contact with them since January of this year. At that time we were visiting for my sister-in-law’s birthday. My husband and I were having a conversation with his mom and sister. Before I knew what had happened my mother and sister-in-law were making outrageous and offensive allegations about Pope John Paul II. Knowing that nothing I said would make a difference and actually fearing what might be said if I opened my mouth, I gathered our belongings and told my husband it was time to leave.

Nothing like that had ever been said in front of me and I was very shaken by the experience. We left and my husband was equally upset, as well as embarrassed. I was so turned off by that experience that I have not gone back since then. My husband did visit his mother on Mother’s Day by himself. His sister apologized saying that she did not realize I would be so upset.

I just do not know what to do. Am I wrong in avoiding my in-laws? My husband and I do not yet have children and I fear the day when something like that could be said in front of them. Where is the line in this situation?

I can’t recommend totally avoiding your in-laws. They are your husband’s parents and sister, and he will likely wish to maintain contact with them. If you do have children, it will also be difficult to deny them access to their grandparents and aunt. However justified your feelings, if you are perceived as the cause of the rift, you could see this family – including your husband – begin to resent you.

I would suggest sitting down with your husband and planning out strategies for how the two of you will handle future visits. Your sister-in-law gave you both a good opening by stating that she didn’t realize that you would be upset. If, on future visits, similar offensive comments are made, your husband (not you) might quietly state, “I’m sorry, but [insert your name] and I are upset by the turn of this conversation,” and change the subject. If the in-laws continue to pursue the offensive conversation, your husband (again, not you) might quietly state, “I’m sorry, but [insert your name] and I must leave now.”

If your in-laws begin to realize that your husband will not tolerate such offensive conversation – and they cannot blame this on you because your husband is the one taking the stand with them – perhaps they will learn to modulate their conversation in front of you, your husband, and any future children you may have.

For more information on coping with difficult relatives, I recommend getting a referral to a Catholic counselor near you from or the Pastoral Solutions Institute. I also recommend Gregory K. Popcak’s book God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts.

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