I’m trying to work out the best course of action here.
My father-in-law was, at one time, violent abusive and manipulative. My wife now keeps an arms-reach relationship with him on the premise that he has “mended his ways” - but her fear of him, and to a lesser extent his wife, is still there and very much baked in (from here on, every time you think “why would you agree / let that happen?”, this is the answer)
And while he is no longer violent, the manipulation is definitely still strong.
The complication is, we have children. He adores our eldest son, and has - since before his birth - tried to emotionally manipulate my wife into a closer relationship. On the other side, he often sets up a “buddy grandpa” dynamic. Things like letting him eat almost nothing at mealtimes. We have always found it difficult to get him to eat sufficiently, and so one day of this made him refuse to eat properly for a week.
Thankfully, they live far enough away for this to only be a problem 2-3 times a year.
This year we have agreed to go on holiday with them. It’s all booked.
We are worried about the flights. Grandpa will want the eldest to sit next to him by the window, probably with his wife beside him, the thought of which leaves my wife trembling.
We are worried about the mealtimes. We are worried that the Grandpa will manoeuvrer us into a position where he gets one-on-one time with him, which given his violent history, is also a big no - though we don't want to voice this boundary unless we absolutely have to. We are worried that they will plan exhausting / boring days out without considering child stamina. We are worried that the “captive audience” effect of being abroad and us being unable to drive away from the situation will make his boundary pushing worse, to the point where we might see the “old him”.
In short, we are worried we’ll be entirely powerless.
So we’re left wondering… what practical steps can we take to frustrate his manipulations and boost our confidence? We want our children to have an enjoyable holiday, and to not know anything about the fears gripping my wife and I. But as the holiday approaches, the stress levels are rocketing.
(The holiday is in August, so we have some time to prepare)