ASK AMY

In-laws too self-fo­cused to in­ter­act

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - [email protected]­dick­in­son.com Twit­ter @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: My hus­band and I are frus­trated with his fa­ther and his fa­ther’s sec­ond wife, who came into the pic­ture when all the chil­dren were adults. We have been try­ing for almost a decade to con­nect and make get­ting to­gether more bear­able. It’s not work­ing, and I’m ready to throw in the towel.

Amy, they just refuse to en­gage with us! My hus­band has ex­plained his job ev­ery visit for the last two years be­cause they don’t lis­ten to his re­sponse. They never ask about me; I may as well be in­vis­i­ble. They talk about them­selves con­stantly, in­ter­rupt you when you talk, and ba­si­cally talk over oth­ers.

My hus­band and I re­cently told them that we are ex­pect­ing a baby. Not only did they not ask how I was do­ing with the preg­nancy, but 10 min­utes later his wife was talk­ing about her health prob­lems.

I feel like we are at an im­passe. I can’t stand to be treated like I don’t mat­ter, and I don’t want to force my­self to be around peo­ple who aren’t sup­port­ive, es­pe­cially as a first-time mom. My hus­band is an­gry with their be­hav­ior, which up­sets both of us.

Should I go to fam­ily events a few times a year and suck it up, or should my hus­band and I try again to ex­plain that their re­la­tion­ship with us is fall­ing apart be­cause of their be­hav­ior? Dear Try, Try: You might as well con­vey to your in-laws the way you feel when you are with them. Do­ing so might make you feel bet­ter, but you must also un­der­stand that it is not likely to in­spire change.

The pres­ence of a grand­child might nudge them to­ward a dif­fer­ent fo­cus, but again, peo­ple who are com­pletely self­ab­sorbed tend to dive into their self-re­gard, re­gard­less of the au­di­ence. Th­ese fu­ture grand­par­ents will miss out on a lot. Yes, show up at fam­ily events a few times a year and tol­er­ate the be­hav­ior, which you can­not change. Re­ward fam­ily-fo­cused and gen­er­ous be­hav­ior with the qual­ity of your at­ten­tion.

Dear Amy: I have a friend from over 20 years ago who es­sen­tially in­vites him­self to stay with me, in my one bed­room/ bath­room home, for his vacation. He re­cently did this for the third time, al­though I ex­plained my un­ease with the ar­range­ment.

He doesn’t rent a car and ex­pects me to drive him around and come up with things to do while he’s here. He brags about be­ing a tight­wad and how he NEVER drives.

How do I dis­suade him with­out hurt­ing his feel­ings? I am a sin­gle fe­male, by the way. We were never more than friends and, even then, not very close. Dear Put Upon: Please for­ward me your con­tact info, be­cause I could use a vacation and you sound ex­tremely ac­com­mo­dat­ing. Your “friend” isn’t be­hav­ing like a friend, and he is count­ing on your in­abil­ity to de­liver a truth­ful re­ac­tion to his im­po­si­tion.

Please, learn to say no. An ef­fec­tive “no” need not be em­bel­lished with de­tails or ex­cuses. You sim­ply say, “No, you won’t be able to stay here. But let me know if you come to town and maybe we can have din­ner while you’re here.”

Prac­tice this — on pa­per, in the mir­ror, with other friends — un­til you are more com­fort­able de­liv­er­ing your “no.”

Dear Amy: Par­ents de­scrib­ing them­selves as

“Put Upon” wrote to you about their daugh­ter and son-in-law’s fi­nan­cial de­pen­dence, as well as the SIL’s pas­siv­ity in terms of be­ing help­ful at fam­ily gath­er­ings. They re­minded me of my­self — only I iden­ti­fied with the son-in­law. Is it pos­si­ble that he has been so over­whelmed by his wife’s fi­nan­cially con­trol­ling par­ents that he is prac­tic­ing pas­sive-ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior?

For me, it be­gan when our car had to be re­placed. I had a used Volk­swa­gen in mind be­cause I could af­ford it and would be able to main­tain it. No, that wasn’t good enough for my in-laws. I wasn’t fi­nan­cially ca­pa­ble of be­ing the hus­band they wanted for their daugh­ter and later, not fi­nan­cially ca­pa­ble of be­ing the fa­ther they wanted for their grand­chil­dren.

When I fi­nally and pas­sion­ately laid all this out for them, they said they only did what they thought best.

Maybe th­ese par­ents should back off a few notches. Dear Been There: Very wise ad­vice.

Copy­right 2019 by Amy Dick­in­son

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