Everyone has a few and if we don't, many of us acquire them by marrying. Some you can only avoid -- the groper, the racist, the preacher. But others can be managed and most of us would like to spend time with our families, even if they do include some low hanging fruit. So, what to do? Here's a guide. * Usually, these tensions arise in a struggle for dominance over an event or a third person, like your MIL who insists you should give choking hazards to your toddler. Think this through. If you do in fact have control -- that is your baby, after all -- assert it in whatever way you must, up to and including leaving/asking your MIL to leave. If you don't, you don't. If your SIL treats you like a day laborer at her house during the dinner she is hosting, know this and acknowledge that by going, you've agreed to subject yourself to this treatment. Accept the things you cannot change, blah blah blah. * Some of the tension occurs because the family group stays together too long. If a post-prandial period of several hours is your family's motif and you generally want to kill a few after leaving, then skip it this year. Claim you have a second engagement (be nice to actually have one, as most of us suck at lying), grab your coat and go. If you plan to do this, park on the street; don't expect your relatives to move their cars if they have blocked yours in the driveway. Most families are an Ode To Passive-Aggressive Behavior. * Love Grandma but can't stand the Aunts and Uncles? Take Grandma to dinner on Friday or Saturday and skip the Thursday nightmare.....but let her know ahead of time. Call during dinner and wish her a happy day, and mebbe send flowers so your love is there. It's just you who is missing. * Everyone has the same Norman Rockwell fantasies of family Thanksgivings, and most of us have a few relatives who'd more easily have stared in "Pyscho". Ratchet down the expectations and needs. Don't weep over how Uncle George did it again this year if he's been doing whatever makes you cry for 15 years. Expect your family to act like themselves -- chances are, they will. * Newly married? Odds are overwhelming your in-laws have customs they treasure which you find bizarre. They are anxious to assure themselves your spouse has not left their tribe by marrying you, so if the rituals are not morally noxious, cave. Then take your new spouse to your family on the next holiday for the same treatment in reverse. Or better yet, stay home and mebbe host a few occassions yourselves that are relatively weirdness-free. The very worst thing you can do is decide a situation is likely to recur, is repugnant to you, but you "must" go anyway. There's no law that says you "must" do any one thing on the last Thursday in November. Go with a "grin and bear it" attitude or skip the doosey doh and play "Grand Theft Auto" with your friends. Either way, I hope you all survive and thrive! Happy Thanksgiving, USMB-ers.