Adapted from a recent online discussion.
HI, CAROLYN: I got married two years ago. Neither of us changed our last name. Now I would like to change my last name to my spouse’s. I’d like to tell my family before I do this.
My family hasn’t been supportive of our relationship until very recently. We’re a lady couple and the ‘rents had big problems adjusting to that. I don’t talk to them often. Part of the reason I am changing my name is because I am more connected to my spouse’s family.
I guess I’m worried my family will take this personally and it will be seen as me disconnecting from my family at a time when we are working on being more connected. Thoughts?
DEAR LAST NAME: It is personal, though, so they would be right to take it personally. Yes?
You have every right to take your spouse’s last name, of course, with or without justification. It’s just that actions always have consequences and there appear to be some foreseeable consequences to what you plan to do.
Are you ready for those consequences? If your family does take offense, and they respond by undoing your recent progress, will you regret the name change — or at least your decision to do it now, amid “very recent” progress?
If you’re ready to proceed now and to accept the consequences, then I suggest just telling your family in a declarative way. “I’ve decided to take Spousie’s name. I just wanted to let you all know before I started the process.”
Your phrasing suggests you want both to do something upsetting and not upset anybody — i.e., detach cause from effect — and the answer to that is, always, you can’t. You can only choose your priorities and hope for the bets.
DEAR CAROLYN: Is there a way to tactfully encourage one’s spouse and siblings-in-law to start looking at moving their parents into assisted living? Both parents are around 90 and have had multiple falls already, with associated broken bones. Both have other health problems and neither should be driving (but they do). Their house requires several steep steps to get into and out of, although the building itself is a single story. The upkeep on their home is getting to be beyond them, but neither parent wants to admit they are unable to do what they used to. If we lived nearer, I’d certainly move them in with us if they were willing. Do I just bite my tongue? Do I suggest things to my spouse? Do I just hope they don’t have any more accidents?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Why can’t you just state the facts to your own spouse?: “Because of [this], [this] and [this], I think it’s time to face that your parents aren’t able to live on their own anymore.”
If you can’t, then that’s as big an issue as the parents’ infirmities. Tact is something most families stop needing after the second bone-breaking fall.
Maybe you need more appealing options, too. Depending on your in-laws’ budget and insurance coverage, finding a caregiver to live with them might be worth exploring as an alternative to assisted living.
Stepping in on the driving isn’t optional, though. Call their DMV to research your legal options.
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