Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I am a white girl with a brown boyfriend, whose parents are Muslim and legally emigrated to America many years ago. Accordingly, I am especially disturbed by the xenophobia circulating around the recent election.
I have one of “those” older relatives who thinks very differently than I do about the world. She recently posted something on Facebook that was not quite a direct insult to my boyfriend, but is enough for me to decide I am done with this person. I’ve never much liked her, and we are not close with that part of the family.
However, I’m not interested in causing family drama, so I’m taking subtle steps to avoid this person.
But – this relative still sends my brother and me cash gifts. In years past, I have thanked her dutifully in writing. At this point, I don’t want her money and definitely don’t want to communicate with her. But I also don’t want to start drama by telling her not to send me anything.
The best solution I can think of is to donate the money to a charity that promotes cultural understanding, not thank her, and continue until she notices she’s not being thanked. Good plan? Bad plan?
If it helps, I thought of your solution before I even got to that part of your question: Donate the money to diversity-promoting causes.
Except I’d send a kind thank-you note indicating exactly where the money went. It’s polite and will convey the message with the minimum possible drama.
Bonus, if she’s not plugged-in enough to recognize, say, the Southern Poverty Law Center, then you get to keep giving her money to your cause in the broad light of day.
Dear Carolyn: So I have a buddy, nice guy. We hang out, pretty superficial, still fun. Our wives are really good friends and his wife texts my wife about my friend’s lack of respect for her.
I of course have not heard any of this from him and cannot approach him about it because I have only heard one side. It’s a very odd situation. On the positive side, I think my wife has a new appreciation for me!!! Haha! Still, it’s a tough situation, especially for the wife. Not saying I could even help, but, could I?
You say you’ve “only heard one side,” but you’ve witnessed this couple’s interactions, right?
So, does his disrespect occur on your watch? You can help for sure in that case. You can keep an ear out for, say, nasty comments he makes to her in your presence, and you can come to her defense – lightly and appropriately to the context, so the point is made without derailing the mood.
You tread gently not to preserve your happy social evening, but instead so both people get your important message – “Hey, I heard that” (to him) and “I’ve got your back” (to her) – while still saving face.
If the disrespect isn’t on display when you’re out with this couple, though, then there isn’t much you can do besides follow your wife’s lead – because it’s between your buddy and his wife, and between your wife and his. When in doubt, respond to what you witness, not what you hear secondhand.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.