Dear Carolyn: I’m getting married in a year to a wonderful man. In the past few weeks we’ve found ourselves in an odd position. My father is an attorney and my in-laws recently approached us with information about professional sanctions my father was given about eight years ago. He wasn’t disbarred or even suspended; he just had to pay a fine and attend a class.
My in-laws clearly Googled my parents, which is a little odd but ultimately not a huge deal.
What’s difficult is that my in-laws seem to think my father is a white-collar criminal. This situation isn’t even close to that. But my in-laws keep saying stuff like, “When there’s smoke, there’s fire.” My in-laws told my fiance that he needed to be informed of this before we get married.
My fiance doesn’t really care about this issue, much to his parents’ surprise. This has only ramped up their discussion of it.
How can I explain to them this is no longer up for discussion?
Smoke: Whether an issue is “up for discussion” is not something you explain. You simply discuss it or you don’t.
So, next time it comes up, you spell out whatever last point you want to make about your father. For example: “Your son is not marrying my father. My father also happens to be a good man and remains a licensed attorney, and I will not stand for your speaking of him this way.” Then you change the subject. If they go back to it, then you say, “This is no longer up for discussion,” and leave the conversation/room. If you can’t leave (moving vehicle, say), then you go silent until there’s a new topic. That’s it. It’s a matter of enforcement, not phrasing.
Presumably they use another cliche here as well to justify their persistence: that when you get married, you also marry the family. I actually hope they do, because then you or your fiance will have the perfect opportunity to point out that it cuts both ways.
And since it does: Make sure your fiance is not just willing to stand up to his parents, but also an expert at it. Their behavior does not bode well for living boundaried ever after.
Dear Carolyn: After talking myself out of it for many years, I recently met with a therapist a few times. Unfortunately, I picked someone who spent our sessions talking about her own life. When we occasionally got back to me, she picked the topics rather than making any effort to find out what I wanted to focus on.
I know I need to find a different professional. As someone who struggles to speak up when I’m uncomfortable, though, I’m dreading the process. Would it be weird to interview future therapists before making an appointment?
— I Know More About My Therapist Than She Knows About Me
I Know More . . . : Yes, interview the therapists first, or request the first appointment as an interview. If you have a job that offers an employee assistance program, you can use the free initial appointments as a tryout.
Awkward as it sounds, you can also ask this therapist to recommend another. “This isn’t a good fit,” is all the explanation you need — email or voice mail will do.