Carolyn Hax: A single sibling and a serious case of family scheduling resentment

Carolyn Hax
Columnist February 9

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

At what point can one stop prioritizing other family members’ life events and start prioritizing one’s own? I have dutifully attended my older and younger siblings’ weddings complete with the entire dozen or so contrived events, which were not at all convenient for me; and I have been flexible with my folks about holidays so they could accommodate my siblings’ spouses, etc.

One sibling and spouse are now expecting a child — due shortly before the time my boyfriend and I were discussing for a wedding. I am 99 percent sure they wouldn’t attend, because of the baby and because they have always prioritized spouse’s family events.

Is it fair to accept that people make time for the things that are important to them? At what point is it okay to stop planning my life around my siblings? And, of course, what would be the best response to my mother, who would be devastated that the whole family “couldn’t” attend?


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Family: The Other F Word

This is actually two questions. The first is the one you cop to, about whether it’s okay not to schedule everything around your family. The answer to that is easy: You have been entitled all along to live your own life, so, sure, get on with it. Whether it’s important to you to see family on holidays; or alternate seeing family and doing your own thing; or do your own thing and see family at less-fraught, non-holiday times; or whatever — okay, then make your plans accordingly. Your family will be free to freak out as they please, but that’s all part of the deal: You have your priorities and they have theirs.

The second question is, can you plan your wedding for a date that’s not sibling-friendly? Possibly just because you’ve had it up to ^ here with contorting yourself to accommodate them? The answer to that is still yes, technically, but cheez. It just seems needlessly foot-stompy if a wedding two months earlier or later would work just fine.

Bigger picture: This is why it’s best not to suppress-suppress-suppress your own feelings to please others. It hardens into resentment and becomes “the entire dozen or so contrived events.” Yikes. Put things into perspective, not grudges.

Re: The Other F Word:

Carolyn, I think your answer is a good one. However, I can see where the writer is coming from. The single person in the family is expected to accommodate everyone else because you are viewed as “less than.” It seems that she has been put in the “less than” category for some time.

Obviously, I can relate; my family even continuously suggests that I shouldn’t get a room in family vacations and just sleep in the common space since it is just one of me. Ugh.

One of Me

Yes, been there myself, and I do get it. I just thought “F-Word” was resentfully over-correcting.

People who are in the early stages of the Singles Get the Couch Syndrome would do well to figure out how much accommodating is too much, and draw lines accordingly. That’s better in the long term for all involved, even if it brings on short-term flak when you say, “Sorry, no family Thanksgiving for me this year, I’ve got other plans.”

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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