Social Question

Mama_Cakes's avatar

You're away for 5 days with your partner's family; other than time spent with your partner, do you feel guilty for not hanging out with her family (all of the rest of the time)

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9310 points ) September 2nd, 2012

If I want to go off and read a book, take a nap, or play online for a bit, I feel bad. My partner makes me feel bad and I am hoping that I am not being antisocial. Sometimes, I just need alone time. Five days with your partner’s family is a long/lot of time. Most of my time is spent with them.

She doesn’t see them all that often, so she may want to spend her free time with them. I understand that.

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32 Answers

Mama_Cakes's avatar

They’re wonderful people. It’s just that this is my vacation, as well, and I need some downtime of my own.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

If I had a partner, I would hope his family would be accepting of me to begin with, and then I would hope that I would want to spend time with them. I would like to feel a part of the family.

Having said that, I understand the importance of solitude. I would want some on vacation. I would imagine having a conversation with my SO beforehand outlining my desire for some so it wouldn’t be a surprise on the trip.

If my partner was making me feel guilty or shameful for desiring solitude, I would have a very serious talk with him. He would need to know my position clearly. The discussion would be loving but firm. I spent too many years feeling guilt and shame just for being me. I no longer tolerate it when those emotions are imposed on me by others.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I’m also tired, as we’ve been busy the last five days.

Kardamom's avatar

It shouldn’t be a problem, nor should your partner make you feel guilty for not wanting to spend every moment with the other folks, although it’s totally fine for her to be with them the whole time if she wants to, since it’s her family and she doesn’t get to see them that often.

The same would be true if the shoe were on the other foot and she was visiting with your family. 5 days is a long time to spend with people that you don’t normally spend that much time with.

It’s the not the amount of time, per se, as much as it is the activities involved and how well you know them. You could spend tons of time, on a regular basis with co-workers, and even though they’re not your family, and you don’t even necessarily like them one way or the other, it’s the activity that you need to do with them that makes it work out reasonably well.

With family, even though they might be great people, because the others aren’t your partner, they’re simply other people who you might like or loathe or have much or little in common with, but you still need to have time to de-compress from them, even if you adore them. Just becaue you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you don’t need your routines and downtime.

Even when we have relatives come to stay at our house, we always give them time and suggestions as to how they might like to read or watch TV or go for a little walk or talk on the phone or work on their computer, whatever. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Hopefully she’ll understand and just have a great time with them. She can just tell them that you’re a little tired or even feeling a bit overwhelmed or that you’re not used to so much excitement.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Thanks. I needed to hear that.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Sadly, she is not understanding.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Her family is very social.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am sure you will be polite and spend time with them sharing meals or specifically organised family activities – other than that I would have thought they would prefer you to go off and do your own thing. I doubt they want you hanging off them like a bad smell. I am assuming if they asked you to come along, they know you and want you to be comfortable and enjoy your break too. If you are concerned, you could say something to her mum like “I hope you won’t mind if I take off and read or do my own thing. I am not being antisocial I just need my own space at times”.

You can’t pretend to be someone you aren’t.

Kardamom's avatar

You should also say to your partner, “You know I love you and I want to be part of your family and I’m so glad that they have welcomed me, but because I don’t know them that well, and because I’m a little more low key than you guys, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I do want to participate in the family activities, just not all of them. I hope you can understand. I wouldn’t expect you to spend 27/7 with my family either, or anyone else for that matter LOL” Then give her a big hug and a kiss.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Mama_Cakes My family is overwhelming too. I can handle them, they’re a bit much for anyone new. I just try to take the new people aside and make them feel welcome. And I tell my family to back off and give the newcomer’s some room. Nikki needs to cut you a little slack, or just go off and do something with her, a boat ride, etc. Everyone isn’t cut from the same cloth.

tinyfaery's avatar

Honesty is the best in this situation. Tell your partner that you are feeling tired and need a bit of rest. Anyone can understand that. Your partner may be extra sensitive because she is trying to please her family; she probably cares more than they do. Your partner has to be mature enough to be the one to say to her family that you are tired and need some rest. She should be supporting your needs in this situation.

If your partner can’t or won’t just be honest with her family then maybe she wants you to do it. Tell her family something like: Excuse me, but I’m feeling tired and I am going to go up to my room and rest a little. I’ll see you all for dinner, later.

These things seem so important in the beginning. The key is to be part of her family, allow them to know you. You are a person who needs alone time, they should come to know that and not be offended.

Love you both.

bkcunningham's avatar

If you are looking for the truth about how I feel, I’d have to say suck it up. It is only five days and be mature enough to spend time with her family. Why did you go if you wanted solitude? I hope that doesn’t sound mean or hurts your feelings, @Mama_Cakes, but not everything is about you. Five days in the scheme of things is not long at all to spend time with the family of your partner and to be social. Especially if you know it means a great deal to someone you care about. Everything I said is said with much love.

Kardamom's avatar

@bkcunningham Knowing a little bit about @Mama_Cakes reminds me that she does suffer a little bit with anxiety and shyness. 5 days may not seem like a long time for your average person, but for people with a lot of anxiety, or even a little anxiety, it can seem claustrophobic. I don’t think she’s saying that she wants to blow them off completely, but that she just can’t be part of every single activity from canoeing to card games to horseshoes to hiking to playing Pictionary. That’s all. Plus the family should get to know her for who she really is, so this whole thing does’t end up being a problem every time they get together. They will know that she is kind and sweet and loving, but needs a slower pace and smaller quantity of activity.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s also possible that her family would really appreciate having a little time with just her. Sometimes family members can get to feeling a bit put out if they never, ever get to see their son, daughter, or other close relative without his or her partner or spouse. I don’t see any problem with saying “I thought it would be nice to give your folks a little private time with you. I’m sure they’d enjoy having a chance to talk to you about family matters that they might not like to discuss in my presence.”

YARNLADY's avatar

No way! When I am staying in a room at the beach, I sleep in late while Hubby goes to be with his Mom, and he picks me up for late brunch or lunch. If I feel like shopping – alone – I do.

Plus, Mom now needs a nap in the afternoons, so we all try to time our visits and errands to correspond with that. Our family is very tolerant of individual needs. One brother-in-law only shows up for meals and to take The Family Picture, and he spends the rest of time at his house, alone.

gailcalled's avatar

I would feel that over the course of five days in any family group, that there can be time-outs for those who need or want it.

I always tended to hide for an hour or two daily when we had a summer camp and lots of family and friends for days on end. So did every one else…people hiked alone, canoed alone, napped, read or just disappeared.

That made coming together that much more fun. We did all have raucous dinners together and then games of Trivial Pursuit or sing-alongs around the piano until bedtimes. But sometimes even then there were grumpy pants; we encouraged them to go away and brood in private.

Pandora's avatar

Its understanding but it can come off as anti-social. If you are in their home than it can make them feel uncomfortable in their own home. It really depends on how long and how many times you do it. Some people go to a persons home and act like they are in a hotel. Wait to get fed, and come and go as they please or stay in their room and read or play and socialize on the computer and only make an appearance for food.

Now if you are staying at a hotel, than you can let your spouse socialize all they want and swinging by for a few hours is fine and then take the rest of the day to do as you please. Or at least let them know before going that you may have made some arrangements to go fishing or whatever it is you want to do. Then they won’t feel like you are blowing them off but just trying to fit in some relaxing time and personal fun time.
When I go to my in laws home, I try to make myself helpful and respectful of their need for some time alone but I do my best to socialize. My MIL and I had many years where we didn’t get along but I found helping her with difficult tasks that she hasn’t had the time or knowledge to do is well appreciated.

Shippy's avatar

I’ve learned that a nap or reading a book is necessary to keep my sanity, plus those are regular things to do. So no I wouldn’t feel bad at all.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It is completely understandable how you feel. Many others have felt the same way. What they have found is setting the vacation expectations up on the front end and checking with each other throughout.

Is this the first time that you spent any amount of quality time with her family? If so, it can be an eye-opener. It’s also exhausting being constantly on display and minding your manners. Consider it to be an opportunity to debrief after the vacation and hammer out what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully, the next time it will go more smoothly.

bookish1's avatar

Yeah, I find it exhausting to be “on” like that all the time.
Instead beating around the bush, why didn’t you just use the i word and explain to your partner’s family that you are a serious introvert and you need time to recharge or else you can’t be social?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I don’t know @bookish1…that’s an awkward thing to state to a partner’s family. My partner is fairly anti-social, and when I took him home, I told the family on the front end to back off. It felt like it was my responsibility to manage it, not his.

bookish1's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer : Ok then. Sorry if I was unhelpful. I have no idea how these dynamics work.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@bookish1 No apology is necessary. It is different in every scenario. Your suggestion may work. I just feel that it is up to the partner to be the mediator between their partner and their family.

If you haven’t been in a situation like this before, then count your blessings. I once brought a boy home to meet the family, and the first thing Dad said was, “Take him down to Harry the Barber.” Nice welcoming.~

Every family has their own dynamics and culture that developed over time. It’s much like joining a work dept. already going full force. Some members don’t take the time to incorporate the new ones.

bookish1's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer : I don’t have a family, and no one I date is very likely to want to introduce me to theirs, either.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

But, I’m not all that introverted.

gailcalled's avatar

@Mama_Cakes: Forget the labels. You and Nikki must talk about this before, not during, the homestay. Your needs are completely reasonable. The only issue would be the size of the home. If you are all crammed together in a small vacation home, is it so unreasonable to take a book and sit under a tree for a while or row around the lake for a bit in a riwboat built for one. We had a boat like that and we named it the peewee.

I remember Jackie Kennedy talking (after the fact) about her difficulties in assimilating with giant Kennedy clan when they all vacationed at Hyannisport. Everyone wanted to play endless games of raucous touch football or have serious sailboat races against each other.

She found it all very difficult.

Kardamom's avatar

@bookish1 I think anyone you date would be thrilled to bring you home to meet their family. You silly goose!

gailcalled's avatar

Marwyn here; ^^^You talkin’ ta me?

Kardamom's avatar

^^ No, you’re not a silly goose, you’re an awesome goose!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve learned vacations with other people mean giving up “me time” until I’m behind closed doors to presumably sleep. Your girl needs to come to terms you can’t handle as much social exposure as she’s comfortable with for herself. It’s kind of a downer if you feel you need a vacation from your vacation. Wanting to be with her and share in her family isn’t going to change your anxiety just because you like all those people or they like you back.

Gabby101's avatar

I am fairly introverted and find that most people don’t understand the need for alone time. They think you are upset or being rude. I have learned to lie and tell people that I am not feeling well. Sad, but true.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Mama_Cakes So how did it all pan out? What worked and what might have been done better? There is a takeaway for us from your experience.

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