NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

CAROLYN HAX

Carolyn Hax
(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend's very attentive and caring parents left this morning after a five-day visit to our house. My boyfriend told me he's receiving a lot of pressure from them and others for us to get married. He said his parents love me and want me in their son's life "forever."

This is something we've talked about -- but I do not feel any rush. I'm 27 and don't want kids in the near future. The idea of a wedding freaks me out (I'm kind of shy, don't have money or time to plan, etc.), even though the thought of being married to him is wonderful. My philosophy is: Why change anything when things are pretty great right now?

On their way out, both his mom and dad hugged me and said they loved me. They're nice. I like them. But it just felt weird. Why don't I love them? And should I love them before I marry their son?

Love Thy In-Laws?

So, to recap: You don't like being the center of attention/affection, and your boyfriend is a wuss in the face of his parents' displeasure. Close enough?

These are two legitimate problems that aren't serious as long as they're out in the open.

Using them as the framework for a marriage discussion -- or, worse, a marriage -- instantly puts them into an overheated room on a platform in foofy dress getting fitted for serious problemhood.

Would you marry him, today, in a courthouse special? Yes/No.

Would he marry you, today, if his parents weren't pressing? Yes/No.

If it's Yes/Yes, then, congratulations/congratulations.

Anything short of two yeses means the only proposal that's ripe is the one your boyfriend presents on bended knee, kindly but firmly, to his parents: "Butt out."

As for loving your maybe-in-laws, give it a week and it might not even seem like an issue. You're an introvert recovering from five days of overnight guests with agendas; give the oxygen a chance to make its way back to your brain.

Carolyn:

Recently we took a family picture at my mother-in-law's. I have two daughters with boyfriends (one with a baby). My unmarried sister-in-law -- who, with her daughter, 4, lives with my mother-in-law -- blurted out, "Smiths only" -- meaning, the two boyfriends were not to be in the picture. When I told her we were insulted, she said they were not allowed in the picture because they weren't married. She felt their relationships were not on "solid ground" and that it is proper etiquette not to include non-members in a family picture. She said it was her house and her camera. My daughter with the baby is planning on getting married. I never heard of such a thing. Is this true?

M.

What, that some people will make excuses to protect their own interests, to the point of silliness? It's true.

We can all see this wasn't about etiquette, even without your underlining it in red crayon. But I'm not going to help you score points against your sister-in-law.

When someone takes a hard stand without much justification, your choices are the same regardless of motives: Either you enter the debate knowing she's more committed to winning than to making sense -- thus joining the pettiness, not combating it -- or you bring your own camera next time.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity