(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)
Advice columnist

Dear Carolyn: My husband's family is fanatical about spending time together. They are generally pleasant, but we have nothing in common, so events are mostly just sitting in silence with smatterings of small talk. I've tried to start conversations or suggest games, but they seem to think the way to spend time is by sitting and staring at each other. These gatherings are hours and hours long.

I used to go to every family event, but I've been cutting back since we got married last spring; this still means monthly gatherings, sometimes twice in a month. My husband is VERY sensitive about me "not liking" his family, and I know my absence hurts his feelings. He is also interrogated about where I am at every one, which probably makes it worse. I constantly get comments from his family about how little they see me, which frustrates me to no end. His brother greeted me with "Hey stranger" and pretended not to recognize me — it had been three whole weeks since I saw him last.

My husband typically doesn't push me about it. He just gets kind of quiet and sad when I say no. I hate to think I'm hurting him, but I think the amount of time I'm spending with his family is perfectly adequate. Am I wrong?

— Not in Love With the In-Laws

Not in Love With the In-Laws: Yes, but not about how often you see his family. What constitutes “adequate” is in the eye of the beholder.

You were wrong to marry into this problem without first telling him how you felt.

No matter how mean it seemed to do it, and no matter how much it risked your relationship, you needed to say: “Your family is pleasant, I like them, but I do not enjoy sitting for hours making small talk. That’s just not how I like to spend my time.”

And then: “I will go every [loose schedule that you find bearable], because I love you, and because — as I said — I like them. But I won’t go every time.”

And then: “I hope this won’t be a dealbreaker for you. If it is, then I understand, because family is so important.”

He deserved this information as soon as you were certain, and well before the wedding. Your opting out of visits now is a bait-and-switch.

It probably feels to you that you’re the normal one; indeed, the picture you paint of this family is suffocating.

It probably also felt normal to go along like a good sport for your boyfriend/fiance/husband.

But these positions were traps; you can’t count on the reasonableness of your views to protect you. There’s only reality, and your response to that reality. That’s what any relationship is. That’s what life is.

Your reality now is either submitting to dull visits, or upsetting your husband . . . which at this point may be a false choice, since the former may feed the latter. Misery shows.

So give your husband the information now that you’ve owed him all along. Just add an apology to the script: “I thought going along with it was the right thing to do, but I see now I owed you the truth.”

This integrity in your home can help you shrug off the “Hey stranger” stuff in theirs.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.