> At what point in a relationship does it become de rigueur for a significant other to accede to being dragged along on a partner’s Christmas family visit that holds absolutely no independent charms and has the significant downsides of time off from my new job, super-expensive and crowded flights, and a newborn in the host family? I can’t counter with family obligations of my own because I’m not from a Christian culture. I don’t object to the holiday — but I’d much rather spend it in relaxing, frugal peace and quiet!
S.H. / Denver
I wonder if your significant other might not feel the same way, deep down? Have you merely whined about the proposed trip, or have you concocted a compelling alternative vision for your sweetie — one involving foot rubs and Christmas morning breakfast in bed, perhaps?
Why is it important to, er, “Chris” (I could have also gone with “Christine,” I suppose) that you come along? Why can’t Chris tell the family, “S.H. just started a new job and needs the time to work and rest”? Maybe Chris’s mother is difficult, and Chris is hoping that you’ll act as a buffer and provide emotional support. Maybe Chris’s father is in bad health and Chris very much wants the two of you to meet before . . . you know.
Chris needs to open up to you about this kind of stuff, and if there isn’t any of “this kind of stuff’’ going on, then Chris ought to let you stay home and save the family meeting for an easier time of year.
For your part, think about what you would need from Chris in order to make the trip easier. I don’t mean drive a deal, but if you need money to help with the fare or extra support with chores and logistics, speak up.
The beauty part about initiating a conversation is that if your relationship can’t survive the Christmas Discussion, it’s obvious there is no way it could survive the actual Christmas Visit, at which point everything becomes moot.
Finally, you say you don’t have a religious objection to Christmas, but if you want to get out of this at all costs, you could develop one. Miss Conduct would, of course, officially deplore such a cynical exploitation of one’s faith tradition.
> A friend of mine is getting married in a few years and is looking at bridesmaids’ dresses now. The dresses that she has picked out so far have prices that are even worse than the dresses themselves. The other bridesmaids are worried, too. Is there a kind way to ask the bride to look for dresses that are cheaper than $500?
Z.N. / Boston
A few years, eh? Has she picked out a groom yet, or is this all so that when the lucky man wanders onto the horizon she can expedite him to the altar, since all the logistical work has been front-loaded?
Let your friend fantasize. Why pick a fight now? Simply refuse to discuss or commit to anything until the wedding is at a more realistic stage of planning — i.e., a few months, not a few years, before the nuptial date. When and if that time arrives, all you bridesmaids must cheerfully and implacably tell her what your agreed-upon price limit is, and then put down your little feet in their dyed-to-match shoes and make it stick.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Writer to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. And get advice live during a Boston.com chat with Robin Abrahams this Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.