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Q. My husband insists that every summer we make the eight-hour trek to see his parents. They have never made the trip to see us, despite their being able-bodied and financially stable. They are OK to visit when we are there, but they do not make much effort the rest of the year in communication either. I feel they need to make a commitment to putting something more into the relationship than just hosting us every year, as I get resentful every time we make this drive. —Advice Please!
But “just hosting” is effort in its own right. And being able-bodied and financially stable doesn’t automatically make traveling easy. As for the communication: Everyone has their own limitations, and if those limitations aren’t working within your relationship, then you’ve got to speak up. I hear from a lot of people who feel they are putting in too much effort compared to others, in terms of keeping up visits and communication (see today’s other letter!). But do the other parties make it worth it in different ways? In this case, it is family, and they are older, and they raised your husband (who, by the way, wants to make the trek — and that matters too), so the “It’s part of the deal” factor is even bigger. Is 16 yearly hours of podcasts and gas station snacks so high a price?
If I don’t reach out, I’m left out
Q. I feel like I’m always the one reaching out to friends to make plans, and the one-sidedness of it is exhausting. I’m single and in my mid-40s, without kids, so my friends are my social life. But if I don’t reach out to my plans, my evenings/weekends would be void of human company. (For what it’s worth, several have expressed how nice it is that I keep up the effort.) Any tips for getting through this without having to build a new cohort of friends? —Tired of It
That depends. Do you really need new friends, or can you settle in to paying this particular price?
Look, I hear you. In this era of flaking, ghosting and “I’m too busy pretend-socializing on social media to bother to RSVP to your shindig, let alone socialize in person,” I do think a lack of social effort and reciprocity is a growing problem. But there have always been initiators and non-initiators in life — and a thousand gradations in between — and some people in your shoes have decided that if they have to be the one to make plans, so be it, because the people are worth it. If this is not the case for you, then you at least need to let your friends know clearly that the imbalance isn’t working for you, giving them time to make changes. It’s OK to let them know that it’s too much, and just like they appreciate your effort, you’d appreciate theirs as well. Isn’t that the friendlier thing than dumping them without giving them a chance for redemption?
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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