Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My fiance grew up in a close-knit community with a lot of extended family. They frequently helped each other out with projects. It is common in my fiance’s life for people to have painting or moving parties. I am not a fan of this custom, but I attend about half of them out of a sense of community. My family handled this ourselves or we hired people if necessary.
We are moving into a town house soon and already his family and friends are planning to swing by and help. I realize they have good intentions, but I would actually rather tackle these projects myself or with a neutral person. When his parents found out we hired movers they were actually offended. I would much rather ask a stranger to move my couch three times than my fiance’s cousin. If something breaks, there is also a clear way to remedy it.
My fiance thinks we should pick a few projects for them to help on because they want to so badly. But it is our house, and I don’t really think it is our responsibility to move in and paint in a way that makes other people happy.
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My fiance said his family thinks I come off as cold about this issue; I think his family comes off pushy and meddlesome.
How do I reconcile these differences with my fiance? Do I just hand them a paintbrush and bite my tongue?
A Little Help From My Friends
Your fiance already handed you the perfect way to reconcile these differences: by inviting crowd help on a few projects you aren’t picky about.
You just don’t like that because you (1) Think you’re right; (2) Think being right is a complete answer; and, (3) Don’t want anyone touching your house — so I suspect you’ll shoot down any suggestions that welcome people in.
Here’s the thing. It’s your fiance’s house, too. You both get equal say in how to make it a home. You’re thinking paint but he’s thinking people and love — and your declaring that it’s not your responsibility to make other people happy, while true, says you completely totally utterly and at a cosmic level fail to appreciate how much community means to your fiance.
I am as fussy about my personal space as anyone, and I too hire movers when volunteers are available, so I am not unsympathetic.
But if your fiance were OK with doing things your way, then he would have drawn his boundary alongside yours and deflected his family. If they’d kept pressing from there, then I’d be echoing you on the “pushy and meddlesome.”
But apparently your fiance wants to live his life as a series of modified barn-raisings, and that’s as much his prerogative as your family-begone stance is yours.
And it’s as much your responsibility to make him happy as it is his to please you. Make sure you’re ready for what that means — including an imperative to recognize a good compromise when offered.
So, either pick your colors, set an invasion date and let the village paint — preferably greeting them at the door with lemonade and brownies — or give the wisdom of this marriage a very hard rethink.
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.