DEAR AMY: Last April my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This past Labor Day, I got engaged. Now my fiancee and I are trying to make our wedding plans. I would like to get married sooner rather than later, as my mother’s prognosis is not great. My fiancee would like more time to plan our wedding — and enjoy the process. I fully understand this, and would like to have more time myself. In addition, her parents are paying the majority of the wedding costs, and are worried about losing a deposit if something happens. Any advice?
DEAR CONFUSED: I can think of another person who would like to have more time to “enjoy the process,” and that is your mother.
I (almost) hate to do this, but I have a rhetorical question for you: What kind of person is this woman you are planning to marry, who gets engaged — already knowing that her future mother-in-law has pancreatic cancer — but doesn’t feel compelled to do everything possible to make sure her beloved’s mother will be able to attend and enjoy the wedding?
And here’s your answer: The person who was raised by people who are worried about losing their deposit “if something happens.”
And so — if in the face of this information about your future family — you still want to marry into the clan, then you should lobby to have this wedding sooner, rather than later. But I think this life-and-death episode has revealed something very important about them, and I hope you will pay close attention.
DEAR AMY: My husband’s sister came to visit us recently. From the minute she came in the door, she talked, nonstop, for an hour and 45 minutes. She talked about her life, complained about her husband, talked about her adult children and on and on. She never once asked how we were or what we were up to. The few times my husband or I tried to talk, she talked right over us. She talks so fast and just keeps going. You can’t get in a word! Finally, after an hour and 45 minutes, my husband said we had someplace to go. She has always been self-absorbed, but has gotten worse, as all her kids have moved out and now have lives of their own. Should my husband talk to her about this? He wants to tell her, in a nice way, that she’s not the only one at this stage of life. He would like to tell her that conversation should be “give and take.” Some people advised that we shouldn’t confront her with this. At this point in her life, we don’t think her behavior will change. We just want her to be aware of how we feel, so that any future visits will be doable; so that maybe she will try to hold her tongue a bit, in the future. What are your thoughts?
DEAR WORRIED: I don’t relish being an armchair diagnostician, but it is possible that your sister-in-law is in something of a manic state. I note that she has always been a talker, but you say that this has gotten worse.
Your husband has nothing to lose — and it might actually be helpful if he started the conversation by expressing concern: “Sis, the last time you were with us, do you realize that you talked nonstop for almost two hours? This doesn’t seem normal to me, and I wonder if you are OK.”
She might react defensively, but occasionally a loving and respectful correction can cause a person to reflect on their behavior and work to make some changes.
Even if she doesn’t change, being honest about this can enable your husband to cope with this openly in the future: “Sis, take a breath. Let’s have a conversation, not a monologue.”
DEAR AMY: “Feeling Torn” described the terrible awkwardness in the family after parents and godparents dissolved their business relationship. You compared this to a divorce and noted that children of divorce often successfully compartmentalize their relationships in order to get along. My parents went through a nasty divorce, and my sisters and I struggled, but over time we sort of put these relationships in separate drawers. When I’m with them, I actually visualize drawers that I open and close, and this seems to help.
DEAR BEEN THERE: This sounds like a tidy technique to cope with messy relationships.