Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: Is there a polite way to remind easily offended in-laws that I have family too? I just spent a day with my in-laws, who demanded promises for future major holidays (this year and later years) and will only accept a yes from my husband, no other answers from me are accepted.
I’m pretty heartbroken that my in-laws never seemed to even consider that I might want to spend a holiday with my only sibling and her infant.
I Have Family Too!
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The short answer is, you tell your in-laws you will do your best to be fair in dividing your holidays among different branches of family. If they choose not to respect that, then that’s on them
The long answer (in execution, not in typing) is that this is more about your husband than it is about your in-laws. Either he’s with you on this, in which case your in-laws’ unreasonable demands are merely a nuisance you have to push through – they can’t make you show up on demand – or he’s on their side, in which case you and he need to spend some time figuring out, together, what’s fair.
Dear Carolyn: “Mrs. Smith” and “Mrs. Jones” are my two closest friends. We all live in different states, a day’s drive from each other, and until this past spring, the Smiths and Joneses had never met.
I got us all together and, on impulse, the Smiths invited the Joneses to a three-day upscale event in their area; they accepted. The Smiths made lots of arrangements, bought tickets, made reservations.
The week of the event, Mrs. Jones called me to say she was too sick to go. I urged her to call the Smiths and make her apologies. She seemed very reluctant, but agreed. I went to the event and had a great time. Mrs. Smith just informed me that the Joneses canceled with a text: “We’re not coming this weekend. I’m sick.” No apology, no gratitude, no acknowledgement of the effort made by the Smiths.
Smiths later got a check in an otherwise empty envelope – again, no apology.
The Smiths are furious. I’m stunned. This won’t affect my friendship with the Smiths, but it is strongly affecting my opinion of the Joneses. I would discuss it with them, but it seems too serious for a phone call and it’ll be months and months before we see each other. I can’t imagine dropping this friendship, but I also can’t imagine pretending it didn’t happen. What should I do?
Just call. “This is so unlike you – is everything OK?”
For the record, I see why the Smiths are upset, of course, but … well, think about it in terms of a grade on a test. An apology and gratitude are important, but so were notifying the Smiths and compensating them for their expenses. If we say each is worth 25 points, the Joneses earned 25 + 25 for a 50. It’s still a fail, but it’s not a zero.
Anyway, the important thing is to find whether there’s another side to the story. This is not a mere acquaintance and her behavior is out of character. Asking is what good friends (are entitled to) do.
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