On house rules and holiday politics

Dear Coquette,

The holiday season is coming up, and that means my sister and her fiancé will soon be staying with me and my husband during Thanksgiving week. The problem is that my brother-in-law-to-be suffers from a particularly pigheaded brand of conservative Christianity. To put it politely, he is an outspoken member of the religious right. For him, there is a very simple and stereotypical solution for each of our country’s problem, and he speaks with such certainty and arrogance that it really bothers me.

Everyone in my family goes to church, but he’s the only one who brings his religious politics home to the dinner table, and his views are very extreme. I don’t share his opinions, and I don’t want to have to argue with him when he brings up issues of the day. I’d rather just keep the peace, but then again, I don’t want to be a pushover. I also don’t want to appear unsupportive of my sister or make it seem like we don’t approve of her choice of partner. How do I resolve this?

Supporting your sister does not include an obligation to approve of her taste in men. In other words, you don’t have to like her fiancé. You merely have to tolerate his company a few times a year for as long as your sister can stand to be married to him.

You also have to be a gracious host for family members during the holidays. Of course, one of the benefits of being a host is that when someone is under your roof, they have to respect your house rules.

So, to resolve this, it’s simply time for a new rule — no talking politics. Just don’t allow it. Acknowledge that you’re never going to change each other’s minds about certain subjects, and in the interest of civility, let your sister and her future husband know ahead of time that impolite or controversial conversation is off limits at your house. It may seem a little weird at first to make an explicit rule about what folks can talk about, but trust me, it works.

It’s already rude for your sister’s fiancé to be talking about religion or politics in the first place, but once you have the power to call him out for breaking a house rule (as opposed to arguing with him because you disagree), things will become much more peaceful.

He doesn’t have to like it, but as long as he’s under your roof, he does have to respect it. Or he can stay somewhere else.


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