A Forced Family Portrait

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Dear Edda,

My husband and I just bought a new house after twenty five years of saving.  It’s perfect for our family in every way.  There is plenty of room both of our children to come and go, and extra space for guests. We took great care in decorating it to reflect our preferred style.  I am very happy about it.

Last week, my husband’s parents came for a visit to see the new house.  They brought a housewarming gift.  It is a large (25 by 30?) family portrait taken in the eighties. THEIR family.  My husband’s parents, and their three children (my husband, his brother and his sister). While I was working, my father in law hung it in the living room over the fireplace.  I was speechless.  They are insisting that it looks wonderful there, and were sending photos to all of their friends.  My husband is strangely silent on the matter.

I don’t know what to do. It would be a lie to let them think it’s staying there, but I really don’t want to start an argument.  I’ve always felt that they don’t approve of me, but this is a real slap in the face. Help!



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Dear Fuming,

Two words: Guest Room. Tell them how much you appreciate this wonderful memento from your husband’s past and that it will occupy a special space in the guest room, so that they can enjoy it when they come to visit.  You can even change it out when they’re not there.

It’s your family’s house.  Get a backbone and stick to your guns. I’m assuming this will be fine with your husband.  If not, that’s another whole subject.  Good luck.


Edda is not a medical professional but a local lady who loves to give out advice, even when it's not asked of her. Submit your question to ed@edhat.com for Edda to answer.

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m-cubed Sep 12, 2020 01:00 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

yeah just hand that thing behind a big armoir or something. or seethe about it for years to come and let bitterness consume you. they are being insidious perma-guests

Kew Sep 12, 2020 01:50 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Kinda creepy, don't cha think? Do the eyes in the photo move when you walk across the room? This is the beginning of the end. Next thing, they'll ask your husband to cut a set of keys for next visit!

Minibeast Sep 12, 2020 01:55 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

If it were me, I'd let the portrait hang for a few months and meanwhile find an original art work that you love. Tell your husband your heart's desire is to have that piece of art for your next birthday/anniversary or Christmas gift. Once you have the art piece, then take your in-laws aside and share with them how their wonderful son gave you this lovely, heartfelt gift. Then give the new art piece pride of place.

deeptissue Sep 12, 2020 02:03 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Having good boundaries means that you dont have to explain or justify your choices. You dont need to tell them anything. When they leave, just take it down and put it whever you want. End of discussion. No need to create an argument with them- since it is your home, they dont have a say... so leave it up while they are visiting(this time), then take it down when they leave. Also- you dont need to put it up again at all. I undetstand there is social pressure- but dont abandon yourself- you are not a victim of their social pressure unless you allow yourself to be!

a-1599945656 Sep 12, 2020 02:20 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Your husband needs to have better boundaries with his parents. He should have prevented them from hanging it in the first place and stood up to them so it doesn't make you the "bad guy."

REX OF SB Sep 12, 2020 02:46 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Send it out to be "cleaned," and when you pick it up, park close to a dumpster. Make sure no one is looking, then toss it in. "Oops, sorry, dear, I guess I forgot to lock the car when I went to that thrift shop at Magnolia."

I can't imagine doing something as gauche as your relatives did! Even MY relatives—the Brand X ones who live in Bakersfield—wouldn't do anything that tacky.

shorebird Sep 12, 2020 03:40 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Ask your husband what he thinks about the gift and the fact that his parents hung it up without consulting you. Then ask him what he thinks should be done with the picture. You may find out that he does not feel dissimilar to you. And a solution can be decided between the 2 of you.

If he does not feel similar, then ask him if he wants to know how your feel about it. If he says “no” you must realize that neither he, nor his parents consider you to be a person with her own agency.

And your only self esteem move is to sabotage the picture itself. Fight pathology with pathology. A light spraying of bleach and a dusting with vacuum cleaner dust might be a suitable choice.

And if you are questioned about it say “i never look at it and didn’t noticed a change.”

chico berkeley Sep 12, 2020 05:21 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Sounds like a good dart board to me .We used to take crappy presents sent by relatives and use them for target practice during holiday family gatherings(our side).
I feel your pain.

yacht rocked Sep 12, 2020 05:25 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Google "How to Stand Up for Yourself" in the NY Times. "No one sets out to be a doormat. Yet some people are chronically passive, always putting others needs before their own. These are the folks who end up babysitting for an acquaintance instead of going to their yoga class. In the long run, being unable to express what you want is a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction, because your needs always end up on the back burner."

oceandrew Sep 12, 2020 05:43 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Family portraits belong on the piano. No piano? On the credenza in the office/den then. No credenza or den or office? Then it's the old photo album. Have this huge monstrosity scaled down to a decent sized print, put it in a nice frame and hang it where the sun don't shine too often. Next time your in-laws come to visit and inquire about the portrait show them the print and inform that's where you found it to be more appropriate for the decor. No need to set them straight just yet.

PBmama Sep 13, 2020 07:43 AM
A Forced Family Portrait

My in-laws gifted me with a very large portrait of themselves when we moved into our house. Every time they would come I would take a picture off the wall in the living room and put that on the nail. The fact that they would think that I would hang it so front and center was ridiculous but they loved it. It made my husband and I crack up. If You can’t find humor in these things, they’ll eat you alive

SBWalkers Sep 13, 2020 08:14 AM
A Forced Family Portrait

Find out how hubby feels about it, then go from there...

freshpavement1 Sep 13, 2020 08:20 AM
A Forced Family Portrait

I’d do the following: 1) Take the picture down immediately, tell your in-laws you love them but that picture will not hang in your house and tell your spouse to store it somewhere or otherwise dispose of it. 2) Have a similarly - sized print of you and your family from the ‘80’s made and hang it in their living room. Maybe then they’ll understand how this isn’t a great idea.

Ahlia Sep 13, 2020 08:41 AM
A Forced Family Portrait

I love the "DEEPTISSUE" advice. Instead of allowing this to be a source of stress and contention it is good to remember : " No one can make you feel bad...without your consent. " :-)

biguglystick Sep 13, 2020 12:05 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Saving for 25 years and finally getting a home is a huge accomplishment. It is yours and yours alone. Do with it what you please. I'd wait until they leave and then immediately take it down. No apologies needed.

paglinsb Sep 13, 2020 01:30 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

Edda's solution is perfect--for awhile. If it's in the closet when they come: "Oh, we love to rotate our favorite pictures. It keeps the enjoyment of them fresh."

PitMix Sep 14, 2020 01:10 PM
A Forced Family Portrait

I can see why in-laws might think a picture with them and the husband from the past would be treasured. But wait until they leave, find out what your husband is thinking, and then guest bedroom or closet it until they come back.

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