Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Partner’s family pushes back on choice not to have children
Adapted from an online discussion. Dear Carolyn: Since I was a teenager, I’ve known I don’t want kids. I’ve been vocal about this to pretty much anyone who will listen. My partner says they’ve never really thought about it and just grew up assuming they would. They say they’re okay with not having kids, but I’m afraid I’m taking something away from them. My family has been socialized to this fact for years now and is pretty supportive. Their family is far more traditional and it came as a shock when they found out, and they are putting pressure on my partner about it. We’re at the point of discussing marriage. I don’t want to get a divorce when the rubber meets the road. Any advice? – Anonymous Anonymous: Your best chance in marriage is if you don’t lie to each other and don’t lie to yourselves. Some of these truths you can foresee and plan for, but the rest you just have to discover as you get there, and that’s not even accounting for unforeseeable things that happen to both of you along the way. The details may change, but that’s pretty much the foundation: Do you have that honesty and trust, or not? Does your partner answer to self or to others (you, family)? Leap or don’t leap accordingly. Dear Carolyn: For the first time, I told my husband that his extended family couldn’t stay with us for the weekend. I have to see them at some point, and I know they will be bitter about it. We have had various family members and friends staying with us for three months, and this is the first weekend without any company. His family asked us this week if they could stay with us when they visit. I feel guilty, and I’m not sure what to say if they confront me about it. I’m just so tired and have so much to catch up on that I’ve put off because of all the company we’ve had. They are staying with other family in town, but the accommodations are tighter than if they stayed with us. – Saying No Saying No: Tighter accommodations?! The nerve of you. If they don’t graciously take no for an answer, then they are jerks. I started a longer answer, then decided to economize. But maybe that’s too economical. You have nothing at all to feel guilty about. It’s your “no” to say, period. On top of that, people who invite themselves to another person’s home on short notice are already two entitlements deep and, if they had any sense of boundaries, would understand this is a 90-percent-chance-of-”no” situation to begin with. Even in groups where staying with each other is typical and expected, a peremptory “no” has to be in the unwritten rules, or else you create the conditions for someone to unwittingly push a host past the point of exhaustion. So treat it as if it’s a given they will understand, and let them live up to your rosy view of their manners. If they push back, don’t engage. No is no is fine. And, while I’m here – where’s your husband in this? Why is he not saying to his family, “We’ve hosted for 12 weekends straight, we’re exhausted, and I’m drawing the line. If you don’t like it in your slightly tighter accommodations, then be angry at me”? It’s not freaking hard.