Vexed by not hear­ing ‘thank you’

The Washington Post Sunday - - DANCE - Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Dear Carolyn: About a year and a half ago my youngest son mar­ried a lovely woman who I am gen­uinely fond of, if not very close to. We are a large fam­ily and she’s an only child and I know that can be over­whelm­ing.

So I’ve tried to over­look this thing be­cause it seemed so triv­ial. But it’s re­ally both­er­ing me. My new daugh­ter-in-law NEVER says thank you. For any­thing. Ever.

I’m not the only one who has noticed it. She sent out thank-you cards for the wed­ding gifts, so I shouldn’t say she never says thank you. But that was it.

I’m not the type who sits near the mail­box wait­ing for a thank-you card. But if you give some­one a gift in per­son, face-to-face, along with a “Happy Birth­day” and a hug, and she says “Oh. Okay,” then sets the box aside and never men­tions it again, I think it’s odd. I knit­ted her a sweater with yarn she had seen in my bas­ket and ad­mired. I sup­pose she might hate the sweater, but I’ve seen her wear it a few times. Not a word.

I en­joy mak­ing gifts for peo­ple, but is it wrong to feel peeved at the lack of ac­knowl­edg­ment? She’s not a rude or un­kind per­son, so far as I can tell, but I’m start­ing to feel hurt by her be­hav­ior.

— Puz­zled

Puz­zled: Be­fore I say what you don’t want to hear, please know that I agree with you. Your daugh­ter-in­law’s be­hav­ior, as de­scribed, is weird and off-put­ting and I’d start to take it per­son­ally, too.

But even if mother- and daugh­ter-in-law re­la­tion­ships weren’t some of the most chal­leng­ing in all fam­i­ly­dom, I’d ad­vise you to shake this off. Which I be­lieve you can, if you re­ally want to.

One rea­son is that this isn’t, in fact, per­sonal. That other peo­ple have noticed sug­gests she’s this way with ev­ery­one. It’s a quirk, not a slight. Thus the im­pulse to take it per­son­ally is an emo­tional, not log­i­cal, one.

And when your im­pulse is to add hard feel­ings to a high-stakes re­la­tion­ship, that’s an ex­cel­lent time to hand the reins over to logic. Sug­gested silent mantras: “It’s not me”; “She’s just weird this way”; “Wear­ing it = thanks”; “How about those Sox?”

An­other rea­son is that this hurts her more than it hurts you. Truly. A glar­ing so­cial deficit like this will com­pro­mise her with al­most all who ex­pe­ri­ence it, and many won’t know her well enough to have your per­spec­tive — that she’s a “lovely” woman who does this to ev­ery­one and who prob­a­bly wasn’t taught any bet­ter. (Right? It’s hardly an “only” thing, if that’s what you’re im­ply­ing.) Or they won’t be as in­vested in har­mony as only the mother of the man she mar­ried can be, so they won’t try as hard as you have to for­give it.

As some­one who sticks with her, you might even help her. Pro­vid­ing a years-long, low-key model of good gift-re­ceiv­ing be­hav­ior could be your most thought­ful gift.

One more thought, of­fered with cau­tion: This might be worth dis­cussing with your son. As long as your af­fec­tion for your daugh­ter-in-law is un­ques­tioned (se­ri­ously — if you’ve said boo about her, this isn’t an op­tion), your re­la­tion­ship with your son is solid and non­de­fen­sive, and your in­tegrity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are up to the task of ask­ing a charged ques­tion that’s cred­i­bly un­tainted by an ul­te­rior mo­tive, then go for it. “You know how much I like and ap­pre­ci­ate Wifey, so I feel safe ask­ing this. I’ve noticed she’s awkward about re­ceiv­ing gifts. Is it just me? Is there his­tory there? Is there some­thing I could be do­ing to help?”

Dear Carolyn: One year ago, I ac­cepted a pro­mo­tion and moved to be with my long-dis­tance boyfriend. The re­la­tion­ship was on the rocks, but I hoped mov­ing would get things back on track. Within weeks, I knew there was noth­ing to sal­vage and I soon moved out.

Dur­ing the years we were to­gether I spent a lot of time with his friends and miss them dearly. I re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion re­cently from two of them, a cou­ple, to a party at their home. My im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was, “I would love to, but there’s no way.” I checked the in­vi­ta­tion list, but no ex. His not be­ing in­vited would be very strange.

Is it ap­pro­pri­ate for me to let them know I would love to see them all but wouldn’t want any­one to feel un­com­fort­able? If my ex will not be there, is it ap­pro­pri­ate for me to go? If there was a fall­ing out, I must know what hap­pened. What to do?

— Mor­bidly Cu­ri­ous

Mor­bidly Cu­ri­ous: You were in­vited, so you’re free to go, sans over­think­ing.

And by all means — do go, if in­deed you “miss them dearly.” Not to snoop. Be po­lite and adulty to your ex if he’s there, and don’t pry if he isn’t, no mat­ter how badly you want to. Not that it changes any­thing, but some­one is bound to spill.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

Carolyn Hax

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