Carolyn Hax: Is wife creative or controlling?

Carolyn Hax:

February 3, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My wife takes great joy in planning creative ways to tell people big news. For example, when we purchased a house, she gave our parents copies of the key and a card about how they are always welcome in our home. But she is eight weeks pregnant and is planning a creative way to tell people we are expecting, and then a creative way to reveal the gender.

I think these gestures put pressure on people to react in a very specific way. I feel it takes events that are exciting and important and makes them ceremonial — to which not everybody knows the proper reaction.

I don’t know what to do, or if it is worth doing anything. My instinct is that the “big news” days of our lives are limited and in a few years there will no longer be these kinds of events.


Ha! An event-izer will always have events.

I’m also no fan of the grin-indulgently-until-it-passes approach to differences. If your discomfort isn’t budging, then talk.

First, though, watch those assumptions. Your way is no more universal than your wife’s.

Next, drill into this: Orchestrating the grand gesture does flirt with control. I suggest you acknowledge her effort, then state concern that these efforts come with expectations. Then listen. If she uses these unveilings to elicit a specific reaction, then that’s manipulation. With a baby coming, it’s imperative to reckon with any controlling tendencies now.

Re: Expectation: I cannot begin to tell you how crushed I have been on a number of occasions because of my husband’s non-reaction to something creative I did. You are on the edge of calling her silly. WHY is it so important to tone down or stop something she enjoys?


I am torn. Yes, I get embracing her joy. But I get the discomfort he’s talking about with being handed an orchestrated release of news.

If your proposal is on a stadium Jumbotron, so be it — but mine? I’ll be wanting some say. Not to “tone down” my partner, but to explain that I’m not comfortable in spotlights, so can we find some middle ground?

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