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.

EXPECTATION

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?

ANONYMOUS

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?

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

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