Q. My husband Stefan’s large family is tightly knit. They aggressively attempt to spend every celebratory occasion with us. We don’t mind sometimes, but avoiding their constant intrusions was a major reason we moved to another state.
Last holiday, we spent half the day traveling to celebrate with my in-laws and were shocked to find they had invited Stefan’s ex-friend, Gerald. Gerald was always trouble, and after one too many debacles, Stefan ended their friendship.
The ambush upset Stefan for several reasons, including being forced to reject Gerald again. Stefan’s family thinks we were unappreciative. I take issue with them derailing our holiday.
Stefan’s family wants to spend the next holiday together. He is still angry but feels his only choice is to put this behind him (unaddressed). I feel that since my in-laws can’t understand why we feel betrayed and besieged, why travel to see them?
A. You two are seething over this intrusion (understandably), and yet you are not willing to share your honest reaction with these family members. He wants to sweep it under the rug, and you want to avoid them. You can’t expect these relatives to understand your feeling of betrayal unless you at least attempt to describe it to them.
If avoiding your in-laws is on the table, can’t you decide to address this issue directly and then act based on how they handle it?
An invitation has been issued. Stefan should respond by saying, “I don’t know yet about traveling to see you again, but I really do need to discuss what happened last time we visited.”
You both have an opportunity to try to retrain his family and simply try harder to teach them how to treat you. Moving far away doesn’t help much as long as they can continue to yank your chain from a distance.
Q. Have the guidelines for connecting by telephone changed in recent years? I’m not yet a fogy, being part of the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll generation, but I was taught that a caller should always identify oneself first.
This “rule” seems to have been turned on its head. Instead of RING “Hello?” “Hello. This is the cable company. May I speak to Tim, please?” the universal dialogue seems to be RING “Hello?” “Hello, is Tim there?” at which point my response generally is something along the lines of “Who are you?” while struggling to avoid throwing in an F-bomb.
A. Rules may not have changed, but telephoning behavior certainly has. Although we may still teach children to identify themselves when placing a call to a house phone, there are sometimes legitimate reasons not to identify oneself unless asked.
In the age of cellphones, many people have a (reasonable) assumption that they are speaking to the person they are trying to reach, which negates the necessity for asking. This is all the more reason to identify oneself before launching into a conversation, in my mind.
Q. You recently encouraged a grandmother to tell the truth about her son’s poor choices to her 16-year-old granddaughter.
My mother was on speed and a sex addict. My father and stepfather were alcoholics. My stepfather went to jail when I was 16 for sex offenses. I was able to avoid that pattern because of my grandmother. I will be eternally grateful to her for the invaluable guidance she gave me.
A. What a hero! Thank you.