Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Feb. 16, 2007.
Va.: Advice columnist thinks your marriage is riding on this.
His response to your expressed need for calm and privacy is to question your character. Wow. Before you solemnly swear anything, you and he need to confer on your priorities in this marriage.
At first glance, it's easy to say he has one view of family and you have another, and so you both need to come to a compromise.
Don't make that mistake. Look a little more closely, and you'll see: His relatives expressed a desire, you've expressed an emotional need, and he's going with the relatives. No matter how long “till death do you part” turns out to be, a spouse who doesn't recognize, respect and tend to your needs will make it feel eternal. And uphill.
Some, possibly he, will argue the freedom to open his home to relatives — with his wife at his side — represents for him an emotional need as well. It's a legitimate point.
And, it's a need he can satisfy just fine, over the course of his life and your marriage, without taxing you on this particular weekend. It's one he can satisfy eight, nine, even 10 out of 10 times people visit, while still being thoughtful to you, just by leaving you room to say no when you aren't in the mood.
If it means the world to him and guilt-induced compliance from you, it's one he should satisfy by marrying someone more compatible.
It's also a point he could have easily made, and invited you to discuss with him, without whipping the S-word at you.
Resolving two different needs ultimately isn’t about assigning blame; it’s about defining yourself, learning how to understand the other person and finding what you both can live with. Have that talk. Bend/don’t bend where you want — but don’t budge on respectful treatment. It’s always tempting, and always shortsighted, to sell yourself out just to buy some prenuptial peace.
Dear Carolyn: How do you know when people are just taking advantage of you and are not really “true” friends? I find myself doing everything I can for others, but am often left in tears over being left out or forgotten on my birthday.
A.B.: At the risk of sounding like myself — aren’t “true” friends just taking advantage of each other? Yes, it’s each other’s love or empathy or common interests vs., say, money or beach house. But a healthy give-and-take is still the giving and taking of something each of you wants.
And so it might be less fraught, and therefore clearer, if you reduce your friendships to practical terms: Are you getting the attention you want from all this attention you give?
If you aren’t, then don’t just write off these friends. First try letting them know the kind of attention you’d like. “Let’s go out next week for my birthday” sounds a lot more fun than hoping people think of it themselves, and then crying alone in your soup.