Carolyn Hax: This joyous family event requires boundaries for an over-involved in-law

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 8

Dear Carolyn:

My brother’s wife is pregnant and very difficult. First, she took weeks to even tell me that I was going to be an aunt. Then, she asked me not to tell anyone, including my own sons, until she was further along. It took a few more weeks until she would “let” my sons know and then she told them herself! When I wanted to take a picture of how she told them, “in a special way,” she asked me not to put it on Facebook.

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

What do I say to her to let her know how rude and selfish she’s being? My boys are excited to be big cousins and I want my friends and family to know about their being cousins.

Excluded Family

Whose body is this?


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Whose fetus is this?

Whose news is this?

Whose decision is this on how, when and with whom the news will be shared?

Whose job would it be to retract the good news far and wide if she miscarried after she “let” the news spread unchecked?

I can’t say I’m a fan of the highly controlled news release, but that preference applies to no one but me, and to no one’s news but mine; your sister-in-law’s comfort zone is what governs the release of her news.

So, to identify the person who’s being “very difficult” (and self-centered, and, if you’re pressuring her or complaining to others in the family circle, rude), you need a mirror. Your sister-in-law is not having a baby just to entertain your children or provide you with the perfect social-media moment. Your place in this life event is squarely on the sidelines.

Know that place, and stay in it, unless and until you’re invited to step in closer. As it happens, showing such respect, restraint and good sportsmanship will multiply your opportunities to take joyous part; conversely, ignoring boundaries will secure you a well-deserved spot on the bench.

Hi, Carolyn:

My current boyfriend and I have been dating for over a year and a half and we’ve decided he is going to move in with me next month. We’ve had our little ups and downs and work things out.

As exciting as this is for us, I’m less excited about telling my mom, for fear of a negative reaction. I planned on telling her after he’s been moved in for about a month. She might come to visit me this summer and I don’t know whether I should tell her before she arrives or after.

Cohabitating

Besides postponing your discomfort, what exactly will you accomplish by delaying this talk with your mom? As far as I can tell, you’ll merely add the insult of hiding something from her to her perceived injury of your making choices she’d rather you didn’t make.

If you’re ready to do it, then you’re ready to own it.

About that readiness: Why use “current” to modify “boyfriend” when there’s only one boyfriend being discussed? And why mention “our little ups and downs” to justify your investing in this relationship when that’s not even what this question is about? I wouldn’t have thought twice if you didn’t invite me to. Please ask yourself whether Mom’s expectations are the sole origin of your doubts.

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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