Dear Carolyn: My husband’s family is bigoted and I don’t want to be around them. My husband’s parents were wonderful, intelligent, interesting people that I enjoyed visiting, but now that they are gone I don’t want to waste a minute of my life with his disrespectful and boring siblings and their children. They ignored and disrespected their father in his last years and they disregard me and my husband today.
My husband wants to attend the family Christmas celebration on the Saturday before Christmas, and I feel it is a waste of my time and energy to pretend I care. The minute we walk in the door, the comments begin about politics (blacks, women, gays, etc.) and about how stupid we are for residing in a liberal major city.
The problem is, my husband intellectually and emotionally realizes this but he wants the unity and love he felt when his mom was alive. But I only felt a few years of this feeling, two decades ago, and have 20 years of fallout and resentment and sadness to console him for. I have held it together.
Now his father is gone, and I want to have peace. I have somewhere else I’d rather be.
But as long as your husband wants to attend this gathering, any stand you take against the siblings is also a stand against your husband.
There are times when that’s appropriate, certainly – if he were taking part in any bigoted reindeer games, say, or even if he were monopolizing every Christmas Day or Eve instead of a preceding Saturday – but that’s not the case here. He doesn’t agree with his siblings. Their attitude hurts him. He’s attending not out of solidarity or even duty, but out of an acute sense of loss.
It’s one non-sacred day.
So: Is it a waste of your time and energy to show up for your husband’s sake, and for his sake alone? That’s a very different question from the one you posed, even if the answer’s still “no.”
Granted, 20 years is a whole lot of not getting over a loss, and if you were to say to him that his mourning has outlasted your stamina for supporting him, then you’d have standing to do so, and then some – though grief for his father’s recent death (right?) arguably warrants another, albeit briefer round of forbearance.
But that too is a very different statement from, “I don’t want to waste another minute of my life with your boring and bigoted siblings.” Different because it accounts for your husband’s needs as well as your own, instead of just your own.
That might sound like just more of what you’ve shouldered for the past two decades – and if he doesn’t likewise attend to your needs, then do make that point to him – but this is a marriage and marriage means you at least open this topic with “we.”
Dear Carolyn: What does it mean when a wife excludes her husband from their annual Christmas card? Considering their history it seems like just one more slight directed at our son.
Don’t interpret – just be. Observant, present, loving, patient, available, flexible, ready for whatever turn their marriage takes. Fingers crossed.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.