A French­woman, an English pa­tient and Greek hero­ics

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY PE­TER MARKS

new york — When Bel­gian stage di­rec­tor Ivo van Hove ap­proached French ac­tress Juli­ette Binoche about do­ing the Greeks, he told her he had a han­ker­ing for “Medea.” Binoche, not so much. “I was re­sis­tant be­cause I had seen ‘Antigone’ when I was 18 years old,” she says of that pro­duc­tion years ago in her na­tive Paris, “and it re­mained with me. It was a big story, im­por­tant.” It was not the par­tic­u­lars of the play she re­mem­bered so much as the emo­tional wal­lop. “It was an in­tu­itive feel­ing of it,” she adds. “Some­how, I trust my in­tu­ition. That’s why I ended up fight­ing for it so hard.”

The 51-year-old Binoche, an Os­car win­ner for sup­port­ing ac­tress two decades ago for “The English Pa­tient,” is sit­ting in a sleek re­cep­tion room in a chic ho­tel on the Lower

Dear Carolyn: My hus­band of 16 years and I are in the process of get­ting di­vorced. For the sake of our kids, I re­main cor­dial with him and his mother. She is, af­ter all, their grand­mother. She and I do not com­mu­ni­cate of­ten, and when we do it is via pri­vate mes­sage on so­cial me­dia.

The en­tire time my hus­band and I were to­gether, my mother-in-law called me a nick­name she made up, and it has al­ways driven me crazy. Dur­ing our years to­gether, I had asked my hus­band sev­eral times to speak with her to ex­press my pref­er­ence for be­ing called by my name. He re­fused, telling me he did not want to hurt her feel­ings. Keep in mind that nei­ther of them likes open com­mu­ni­ca­tion when it comes to deal­ing with life’s much big­ger prob­lems.

I didn’t speak up be­cause she would have taken it the wrong way and gone straight to her son to com­plain and ex­press her hurt feel­ings (same sce­nario has hap­pened be­fore). So, this nick­name was never ad­dressed dur­ing our time to­gether.

Fast-for­ward to now, I have zero de­sire to have a re­la­tion­ship with her, and we rarely talk; if we do, it is about my chil­dren that I am now rais­ing com­pletely alone. My mother-in-law con­tin­ues to call me this nick­name, even send­ing pack­ages ad­dressed this way. I would like to know how I tell her to please stop. When I do, I know she will call her son, who will then call me to speak with me about this.

No Nick­name Please

No Nick­name Please: The his­tory you’ve laid out here to ex­plain why this nick­name out­lived your mar­riage also does a fine job of ex­plain­ing why it’s so im­por­tant that you speak up now.

Yes, you were out­num­bered by non-com­mu­ni­ca­tors and de­terred by the threat of emo­tional out­bursts, and you’re hardly the only one to re­sign your­self to sim­i­lar non-com­mu­ni­ca­tion in a blaze of if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join’em de­feat.

But now it’s fair to ask: How has that worked for you? You’re get­ting di­vorced and your mother-in-law still drives you nuts. And you’re ac­tu­ally be­ing un­fair to her be­cause she has no idea that the nick­name she calls you is of­fen­sive to you. You and her son both set her up here to fail.

Again — your go­ing silent on this was a cop­ing strat­egy, I un­der­stand that. I’m not as­sign­ing retroac­tive blame. I’m just say­ing that, since the mar­riage you were try­ing to self-pre­serve your way through is over, you have a nat­u­ral op­por­tu­nity to find a strat­egy that makes more sense.

Start­ing with: “Just so you know, [Ex Hus­band], I’m go­ing to talk to your mom about [Nick­name]. I fig­ure you’ll hear about it from her, so I wanted to pre­pare you. I re­al­ize now that by not speak­ing up di­rectly, years ago, I ba­si­cally set her up to an­noy me, and that wasn’t fair.

“Any­way, I’m go­ing to right that wrong now and try to fix things with my kids’ grandma.”

And then you do just that — fix it now, in per­son or on the phone with your mother-in-law — NOT through so­cial me­dia — in this same, I-blew-it tone. You may have zero de­sire for a re­la­tion­ship with her, but you have in your chil­dren am­ple rea­son to do it any­way. Think of this not as a cor­rec­tion, but as an over­ture long over­due.

Dear Carolyn: The best man from my wed­ding (I was the bride; the groom con­trib­uted the maid of honor) just in­formed me that he wasn’t go­ing to in­vite me to his wed­ding be­cause I have too many kids (three) and the wed­ding will be small.

Not a prob, I to­tally un­der­stood — un­til I saw the co­pi­ous Face­book post­ings about all the folks go­ing to the wed­ding. Now I’m re­ally hurt. I would have gladly left the kids and hus­band be­hind to be there for my friend. But he doesn’t want me there, right? That’s what this is about? What a bum­mer.

Dis­in­vited? Or just not in­vited? Dis­in­vited? Or just not

in­vited?: He was a close enough friend once to be your best guy — why haven’t you just asked him?

It sounds like a snub, but “sounds like” is weak cur­rency. Tell him you’re fine with tak­ing no for an an­swer, you just want to know why — the real rea­son this time.

Hi, Carolyn: My hus­band and I have a 6-month-old whom my mother would like to visit when­ever it suits her. We ac­com­mo­date her on most week­ends. For two full-time-work­ing par­ents, this does not leave much qual­ity time to our­selves or what friends we have left! Say­ing no re­sults in guilt trips, bad-mouthing and her go­ing around me to my hus­band to try to get him to say yes. How do we stop the cy­cle?

Momzilla’s Daugh­ter

Momzilla’s Daugh­ter:

By choos­ing not to com­plete it. Ev­ery time you cave, you con­firm for your mother that a tantrum will win her that yes. You’ve trained her to freak out.

So: Say no when you need to, then ig­nore the tantrum. That teaches re­spect for de­ci­sions you make.

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