NOTE: This does not apply exclusively to in-laws, in-laws just sounds catchier in a headline than plain old family or houseguests. Also, this is not about anyone in particular and is more about how I manage my personal flaws than anything else.
I am an overly sensitive, moody, introvert and if you’ve read Earl Grey—Black, you know that my home is my haven, my sanctuary. Although I love my family and friends, I have to mentally prepare for their visits days before they arrive because if I don’t, having these kind, loving people over for an extended period of time will feel more like an invasion than an opportunity to spend quality time together. This may have a lot to do with the fact that we live in an apartment, not a house and don’t have the luxury some homeowners do of a guest suite that includes a bedroom, bathroom and sometimes even a kitchenette. Instead, what we have is a spare room/library/playroom and an air mattress. As much as I may prepare myself mentally for visits, I can still find it emotionally draining and stressful, especially towards the end of a visit and that is usually when I make the most of text venting.
Don’t slap your in-law, text a friend or text venting, is my version of not sweating the small stuff when we have houseguests. I love my people, even if they squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle and have left the bathroom not swaddled in the towel I so carefully laid out for them but in my bath towel. While in my head, I scream, in reality, I take a deep breath. I try to remember that I’m only in the throws of anxiety and these are not infractions worthy of a slap across the face or throat chop.
I want my guests to feel welcomed and at home in our home so when they leave the bathroom floor wet, fail to wash their dishes thoroughly or throw away items that can clearly be recycled, I dry the floor, I re-wash the dishes and I pull that plastic take-out container out of the garbage and do it with a smile dammit! And when my guests, precious little lambs of Jesus that they are, are out exploring the City or deep into another thrilling episode of Matlock, I text a friend or two, documenting every single infraction. Why? Because I am judgmental by nature and when I’m put under the stress of having houseguests, I am even more so; text-venting helps.
I try not to vent to my husband. He’s right there in the trenches with me and there is no need for me to add to the already very complex dynamic of friendship and extended familial relations with gripes about who didn’t put the top back onto the milk immediately after using it and just left it open while they ate their cereal allowing God knows what to fall into the carton. Wait, I was trying to make another point…. Oh yes, so, unless there is a real issue, we give each other knowing nods and grimaces and keep it moving until the visit is done.
The perfect ventee is an impartial listener who gives not one whit about the situation or the people involved. I pick a close, non-judgmental friend, let them know I will be text venting my petty frustrations and when the time comes I let it out. Seeing it all spelled out in a little dialogue text bubble confirms that I am indeed being petty and nit picking but the thing is, if I’m going to smile and nod and be the best host I can be, I need to let it out, regardless of how small I’m being in the moment. It’s either that or losing my shit in the middle of a five-hour shopping excursion to the Ladies’ Mile, and no one wants that.
In text-venting I can get over my petty self more quickly and may not even press send or if I’m really feeling some kind of way about a situation, I get the immediate gratification of an “Are you serious?!” reply from my friend to which I can respond, guilt-free and smugly, “Right?! I’m not crazy! Who does that?!”, and then get back to some serious quality time uninterrupted by the sound of my teeth grinding together. I’m much more pleasant to be around when I text-vent, and for the days that they stay with us, our houseguests are hopefully happy too.