Carolyn Hax: A snub for boyfriends’ parents?

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 2, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Good morning, 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

My boyfriend and I have talked about getting engaged in the next year, and recently we decided our families should meet. When I told my parents about this and asked if we could invite my boyfriend’s parents to an upcoming family holiday gathering, the reaction I got was, to say the least, odd. My parents reacted in a strongly negative manner, saying the house is a mess (admittedly, it is), and until they are able to replace the carpet, repaint the walls and buy new furniture, they would not be willing to host my boyfriend’s family. My boyfriend has been over several times, so I’m not buying it.

They did offer to set up a dinner at a restaurant halfway between our homes, but I know my boyfriend’s mom is already planning to invite them over (to which my mother’s reaction was, “Do we have to?”).

I’m deeply worried that my family is going to embarrass me once we are able to make arrangements to suit everyone. My mother also asked if we “were really that serious,” and is telling me I’m too young to know whether marriage is a good idea (I’m 25), which makes me wonder if there’s another discussion we need to be having.


How do I go about making them feel more comfortable, or at least less vocally displeased, with all this?

Parents, Engagements and Holidays, Oh My!

Let them make the plans they’re comfortable with, at the halfway-there restaurant. That’s just fine. That your boyfriend’s parents have invited them to their home is immaterial. Your parents aren’t you, or an extension of you, and expecting them to shape your image to your liking is only going to make you nuts.

So, let your parents be themselves without the strings of your pride attached. If your boyfriend’s family judges you through the lens of your parents, without regard for your value as a person, then that will be their fault, not yours or your parents’. And even then, that’s only if the worst happens and your parents behave rudely and/or his parents are snobs. Neither of these is a given.

Besides, if this marriage happens, your “real” parents will come out eventually. Might as well see upfront what all of you are getting into here.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband is very low-key about birthdays, holidays, etc. I get much more excited. I accept that we see things differently and that if I want to make a big deal out of things, I have to do the planning myself.

However, before my 30th birthday I told him I really wanted this birthday to be a big celebration. In the months leading up to it, I threw out ideas, offered to put together an e-mail list of friends, etc.

I was horribly disappointed. Did I set myself up, or should he have pulled something together for the one birthday I made clear was important?

Different Ideas on Celebrating

I’m going to split the Mylar balloon and say he should have rallied for you without your having to spell it out, and you should have spelled out for him anyway: “I realize you don’t do birthdays, but for my 30th I want you to throw me a party.”

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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