Thursday, October 6, 2022


In-laws spoiling full-time RVing experience

Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
My husband and I have been full-timers for several years. It is a great lifestyle with few problems – until my husband’s parents show up. They are elderly but still traveling occasionally with their pickup camper. They will often travel a few weeks with us. I try to be patient and kind, but they are opinionated, selfish and often rude. It changes our whole travel experience.

They complain if they have to stay anywhere that costs more than $10 per night and won’t dump unless it’s free. They would be happy to spend every night in a Walmart parking lot. They also want the cheapest gas and prefer to travel about a hundred miles per day with a long nap about halfway. They are always complaining it is too cold or too hot, their battery power is too low, or there is no flush toilet in the $10 campgrounds we find.

Their favorite pastime is sitting around critiquing other campers who are too loud, too fat, don’t know how to raise their children, don’t know how to drive, or are rich because they have a nicer rig than their own.

Am I being selfish? I want to ditch them the day after they show up. —Too close for comfort

Dear Too close:
Just because you bought an RV and hit the open road doesn’t mean you have solved all your family relationship problems. As you have found out, “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

There are several ways to look at your particular problem. You have to consider that they are your husband’s parents. A lot of us have to deal with in-laws. They may need some extra care at their age. It is wonderful that they can still travel rather independently. They are probably on a small fixed income and need to be extra thrifty when looking for services.

I am not making excuses for their behavior; I’m just suggesting you give them a lot of behavioral leeway. You may want to pick the one thing that annoys you the most and try discussing it with them. If that improves their behavior you can slowly move on to other issues.

If they are embarrassing you it might be your baggage. Most people will see your situation and be understanding of remarks made by your in-laws.

These situations can be very frustrating, but you are only making yourself miserable. Take a deep breath, bite your tongue, check your manners, and keep looking for those free dump stations, $10 campgrounds and cheap gas. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-book: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.





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Alaska Full timer
4 years ago

I agree with the Shrink…. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff they say. My mother died when I was young as my husband’s father. I would treasure time spent with them even if they were old and ornery. The problem today is lack of compassion for our fellow human beings. I have family I travel with occasionally who are similar. I look forward to the times were together and often can find ways around their idiosyncrasies. My husband has a harder time since they are my relatives but is a trooper. He has a few squirrels in his family tree.

4 years ago

I also disagree with the shrink’s advice. And I do agree with “rvgrandma.” Being elderly doesn’t excuse bad behavior. But there are more problems than the negative talk. Your camping styles are completely different. I would discuss this with your husband to be sure he’s on board, and set some new ground rules. Perhaps you could tell them that you are just not compatible campers (and if they ask why not, tell them gently). Then maybe suggest that they choose a location to camp and you will come visit them for a few hours at a time while you are camped nearby. But while you’re there, tell them you won’t abide negative talk. If they have real problems, you can discuss them and offer help, but you don’t have to listen to “Ain’t it awful” talk.

I solved the negative talk with a brother by telling him I love him and want to talk and visit with him, but his negative talk was painful for me. I asked him if I could tell him (kindly) when he slipped into negativity and he agreed wholeheartedly. He thanked me for bringing it up, and in future conversations would often catch it himself or remind me to tell him when he slipped. He thanked me over and over again for helping him with this. Over a fairly short period, the negative talk ended. Today, we have much more enjoyable and honest talks and I don’t dread picking up the phone! His relationship with our sister also improved and he told me that other friends also stopped making excuses to get off the phone quickly.

Negative talk is a habit, and handled gently and kindly, your inlaws might be happy to change. If not, tell them why you’re limiting your time spent with them, and protect yourself.

Elaine Schuster
4 years ago
Reply to  Sherry

This is so true. My MIL was into trashing restaurants we would take her to. The coffee was too hot or too cold or too weak or too slow. The wait staff was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. The food was never perfect and always had to be picked apart. She would need extra butter or something, only after the server checked and left. I finally told her she was spoiling my dining out experience. I was spending money to enjoy myself, and all the complaints were distressing to me. She was surprised, but said nothing. The next time we went out, she was very upbeat. Our times improved after that. She was a dear woman, it turned out. I miss her.

4 years ago

I don’t suppose you could take a minute to talk to Chuck, he seems to be having a problem with people in a Minnesota bar. sounds like you could really help him.

4 years ago

What does your husband think about this? I wouldn’t think they are enjoyable to him either, right? In my opinion, life is just too short to spend time with people you can’t stand to be around. If you can’t speak to them and resolve the matter to your liking, cut them loose and don’t look back!

4 years ago

If you are sitting outside, excuse yourself and go inside. If they should ask why – tell them you don’t appreciate all the negative talk. Some people do it out of habit not even thinking how it affects others or realize they are doing it because they have done it for so long. Has your husband spoken to them? Does all the negative talk bother him?

There was a lady in our RV park a couple years ago that I befriended. When I stopped going to visit so often she wondered why. I told her because I don’t like all the negative talk. She knew she did it but did not realize how she sounded to others. She worked hard on stopping most of it because our friendship was important.

Another option that works with some people is not to respond to negative talk. If leaving is not an option, then just don’t respond. You could read a book, close your eyes to nap, etc.