Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My mother has made my wife’s life difficult — with poor comments and decisions, and by not respecting my wife as the authority figure in our home and with our daughter. I am largely to blame for not putting my foot down. My mother made a poor comment at my daughter’s soccer game to some other mothers, implying that my wife didn’t attend all the games. She took that as a slap in the face. She does attend every game. I shared my wife’s frustration with my parents and my father used poor judgment and left a voicemail saying that they wanted nothing to do with our family anymore. My daughter heard it and my wife demanded that they apologize before they could see my daughter or our family again. My parents were stubborn and this lasted three years. Finally, I reached out and mended fences, arranging a dinner. My folks never apologized at the dinner but simply wished to move on. My wife did not accept this. It has gone on for another year and I am quite depressed by not having my family involved in my life. I cannot accept the fact that my parents are not welcome in my home when they did a wonderful job raising me. My wife seems to feel it is acceptable to have no contact with my family at all. Amy, how can I get my wife to look past this and have a simplified relationship with my parents rather than none at all? Do I have the right to ask this?
DEAR DAD: Your wife does not have the right to deny you the opportunity to interact with your parents — and to include your child in some interactions, if you wish. If she wants/needs to stay home, she should.
Your folks have behaved abominably, and they have reacted to your reconciliation in a way that I believe is, unfortunately, somewhat typical of their generation — “let’s just move on,” instead of apologizing, talking about their feelings or listening to others talk about their feelings. Your parents don’t seem to have been especially pained to be estranged from you and your family for several years. Are they willing to agree to your reasonable expectations — that they respect your wife?
This is incredibly frustrating, especially to someone like your wife, who feels so wounded, and who really does deserve an apology.
However, this may call upon your wife to be the bigger person and to understand this on a visceral level: Your parents are deeply flawed. She doesn’t like them. But does she understand that in some ways, her behavior mirrors theirs?
Can she manage to tolerate occasionally being with people she doesn’t like very much in order for you to have something of an integrated relationship with your two families? She doesn’t seem willing to try, and that’s something she really should work on, because this estrangement seems most painful for you.
DEAR AMY: Regarding “Vexed,” who had a friend that always canceled plans, I, too, have a longtime friend, “Susie” who often cancels plans — also at the last minute. Luckily, we have another friend in common, “Betty.” Betty and I understand that Susie has some social anxieties. So now she and I make plans together and always include Susie. However, if Susie cancels at the last minute, at least Betty and I are able to still get together, and we happily invite Susie the next time. I think this also, somehow, puts less pressure on Susie socially, and she actually attends more often now.
Not Stood Up
DEAR NOT: I love your solution.
DEAR AMY: “Sad” was upset that her sisters didn’t travel to attend her husband’s funeral. I think she is being unfair, and you should not have encouraged her to feel wounded. Some people have health problems or problems affording traveling great distances in order to attend a funeral. You didn’t allow for any of these possibilities.
DEAR UPSET: When readers send in letters describing a problem, I only know what they disclose to me. I try not to make assumptions outside of the information I’m given. In this case, ”Sad” did not report any mitigating circumstances preventing her sisters from being with her during a difficult time, and I greatly sympathized with her sadness and loneliness. Sad reported that she had made an effort to be with her sisters during difficult times, and I think it is reasonable to expect an equivalent level of caring and concern.