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Q. I have decided I will not deal with my husband’s family anymore. They are intolerant, judgmental and obnoxious, and I have put up with them for many years and have had enough. Our children are now grown and I feel no need to go to their gatherings or invite them to my home anymore. My husband cannot deal with the shift. He thinks we’ve put up with them for so long that it is not fair to change at this point. He believes we should welcome them like we used to, and that if I were to stop visiting them it would cause too much drama. We are butting heads about this constantly. —Fed Up
How lovely to decide not to deal with your in-laws anymore and to forevermore bar them for your home. Except for the fact that you want to stay married to your husband. Look, I understand your frustration and your desire to be free. But you can’t pretend this should be a unilateral decision. Neither of you will win if it’s seen as all-or-none. Why not start with a phase-out period, where you get a bit more distance, deciding the what and the how with each potential outing? That allows for changes of heart, too — like his realizing your absence from a barbecue isn’t fatal, or your discovering that you miss talking about the Instant Pot with your sister-in-law. And have you even offered them feedback on their behavior? Perhaps giving them a tangible opportunity to change can be part of the plan as well.
My sister shirks daughter duty
Q. My parents need more support as they age, and my sister needs to care more about them. She and I live about the same distance from them, but she is so wrapped up in her own life that she ends up seeing them a third as much as I do. She never asks for updates, and she never volunteers to help out with their home upkeep. I do their taxes, take my mother to doctors’ appointments, keep track of their medications, mow their lawn, among many other things. And though I don’t mind doing this stuff for its own sake, I have begun to resent that my sister just assumes I’ll do it, without ever asking or thanking. —Doing It All
This will go better if you try not to make judgments about how much she cares about them — or at least don’t verbalize those judgments. Her passivity has many potential causes, including her assuming that you prefer things this way, or not wanting to step on your toes. (Hey, I’m a benefit-of-doubt giver.) So, bring it up. Tell her that as your parents age, you’d like there to be more of a feeling of teamwork, with better collaboration, communication and planning. Maybe that means delegating some tasks; maybe it means she learns to say “thank you” and that’s enough. Or maybe she can begin to develop her own domains of responsibility with them. Progress will start with a conversation, rather than a condemnation.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.
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