Dear Amy: I have been married to my husband for almost 20 years. Unlike my side of the family, who typically extend an invitation weeks in advance of an event, my husband’s side only issues invites two to three days before, even though we all live several hours apart.
Honestly, between our kids’ busy schedules and booking a dog-sitter, we would need at least two or three weeks’ notice to attend an out-of-town event.
For years I thought they were simply last-minute planners. I got used to juggling/canceling plans and begging for a dog-sitter in order to go to their house.
What I have realized over the last two years is that we are the only ones getting the last-minute invite. The three older brothers and their parents often make plans in advance and simply exclude us (including going on a trip together as a large group, and not telling us until they had returned home).
I’m now of the firm belief that they don’t want us to attend family functions. I don’t think they hate us. There has never been any drama. I just think we aren’t interesting to them. My mother-in-law plays favorites.
My husband acknowledges that their behavior isn’t respectful of our time. But he clings to the idea that the last-minute invitations are real.
I sympathize with him, even though they seem to be cutting out my very sweet and loyal husband from the family fold.
I actually like my in-laws, but if my attendance is somehow ruining their time, I would prefer to stay home.
Should we keep attending, or should I just sit my husband down and firmly explain that we aren’t wanted?
He is far too shy and quiet to ever confront them.
Unwanted Black Sheep
Dear Unwanted: You seem to hold no ill will toward your in-laws. You interpret their behavior as proof that they are actively trying to exclude you. It’s also possible that they simply hold you and your family in such little regard that you are almost an afterthought.
I suggest that in the future when you are invited to a last-minute, out-of-town family function, you should kiss your husband, load him and the kids into the car, and stay home with the dog.
Dear Amy: I know this question is long down the road. However, after my mother’s death in 2006, our family celebration of Christmas has sadly dwindled.
For a few years we carried on our traditions. Two years ago, these family traditions actually seemed depressing, rather than festive.
My husband and I live in a remote town, far away from our family. It cost us thousands of dollars to see them at Christmas, and it is no longer fun. No one wants to make much of an effort for Christmas, or for our visits.
We spend most of our time in our hotel room over the holiday, as our family is busy. They are all retired now.
We have very welcoming friends here in our own town that we celebrate with and have wonderful holidays with. We would actually prefer to stay home now.
Am I an awful man?
I love my family. I just do not want to go back there for Christmas.
The pandemic gave us the ideal excuse to stay home.
Dear W: Many of us cling fiercely to our holiday celebrations and family traditions and we feel so wistful when these celebrations dwindle. But I think it’s important to recognize that what we are clinging to are our memories of these holidays, and to give ourselves permission to create new traditions that are better suited to our own age and stage.
The isolation enforced by the pandemic seems to have given people the opportunity to stop and take a breath, and now as we emerge, we realize that we simply do not want to return to the stress of holiday travel and traditions that no longer fit.
Tell your family that you won’t be traveling over the holidays. It’s not necessary to invent an excuse or provide a reason. Schedule a Zoom gathering so you can all raise a glass and catch up with one another.
Dear Amy: “Ready for Change” was fed up with her husband’s drinking.
I hope all spouses of alcoholics understand that if their spouse seeks help to become sober, they should also seek help regarding how to be married to an alcoholic.
Dear Been There: Absolutely. This is where “friends and family” support groups like Al-Anon can be so helpful.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.