Hax: Parents won't accept husband

The Associated PressOctober 24, 2013 

Carolyn: My parents have been unwelcoming toward my husband of two years. They've never corrected him when he calls them "Mr." and "Mrs." When my mom and I leave the men alone, my dad abandons him, affording only the briefest and most surface-level of talk.

I know the reason behind their coldness: They just don't approve of his career and moneymaking potential. I'm stuck, because what can I say? "I want you to be nicer to my husband"? "Please stop giving him the cold shoulder"? What if they refuse? Do I stop my visits too?

INTERCEDING FOR SPOUSE

"They just don't approve of his career and moneymaking potential"?! And you haven't verbally slapped them yet in their self-righteous faces?

The "what can I say" bit sounds disingenuous. You can say: that in freezing him out they push you away; that in judging him by surface standards they not only insult you both but embarrass themselves; that you're asking them only to try to see him through your eyes - not for themselves and not for him, but for you, though all parties stand to gain from that effort.

Now, could be there's some oversimplifying here; it's possible, for example, that they just don't like him or they legitimately disapprove on a deeper level versus just not being wowed by his job, and the "career and moneymaking" angle was their way of rationalizing their dislike. Or, maybe that was the one thing you took away from a more nuanced explanation.

There are two things I can say for sure: None of this excuses a failure to say, "Please, call us Joan and David," when the Mr.-and-Mrs. act lasted past the point of silliness, so you can certainly talk your way to a solution there; and nothing you say will solve the problem of "the briefest and most surface-level of conversations."

When you do ask them for a basic level of effort and civility, they can refuse, of course - in which case you'll have a decision to make. The choices range from showing up with your husband as a form of quiet insistence on his proper place in this family, to playing the middle (seeing parents sans husband, for e.g.), to seeing your parents less, to severing the tie outright. Your conscience has to lead.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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