Wife refuses to accept job as family's communicator
DEAR ABBY: My husband is a nice guy, but he's not particularly good at planning ahead. This means that special events, holidays and birthdays often go unmarked because he doesn't remember in time to get something sent.
In my parents' marriage, all family communications fell to my mom. It was her job to send the Christmas cards, birthday gifts for nieces and nephews and to remember her mother and her mother-in-law on Mother's Day. Our marriage is more egalitarian, and I don't want the job of communicator-in-chief.
My husband knows this and agrees that he should share some responsibility, but doesn't act on it, even after being reminded. I feel guilty when an important milestone in one of his parents' lives goes by and they receive no acknowledgement from our household. The source of my guilt is surely the nagging feeling that it's my job as the wife to make these connections and that I am judged when the things are not sent.
How do I let go of the guilt, or at least let my in-laws know I love them and their son is the one who is letting them down? I want absolution.
— NO CALENDAR GIRL IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR NO CALENDAR GIRL: Not everyone excels at every task. That's why there is division of labor in partnerships, including marriage. If you think you will look better after explaining to your in-laws that the reason they haven't heard from the two of you is their son didn't remember, you are dreaming. Because you are better at planning ahead, deal with the chore. I'm sure he does things for you that are a pain in the neck (and even below). In this day of automation, sending "something" to relatives is practically a no-brainer. And it certainly beats feeling guilty because your husband isn't up to it.
DEAR ABBY: My parents are in their late 60s and suffer from multiple lifestyle-related illnesses. Although they had every opportunity to make healthy changes, they chose not to. I live on the other side of the country, and I am busy with my career and family.
I love my parents and accept our relationship for what it is. However, I do not feel obligated to disrupt my life and upset my children to be with them as they die slow, painful deaths. If their illnesses were not directly related to their own poor choices, I might feel and behave differently toward them. Knowing it won't change their behavior, should I tell them why I won't be with them for what appears will be prolonged and terrible deaths?
— SADDENED BY THEIR CHOICES
DEAR SADDENED: If your parents are as sick as you have indicated, they already feel terrible. I see nothing to be gained by adding emotional pain to their physical pain. Put aside your anger and find enough compassion to NOT say it unless asked directly.
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