Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for almost 25 years.
We are now almost empty-nesters with one daughter in high school.
My wife has a brother and a sister about her same age.
I have an issue with their family dynamic that is magnified now that we are older. The two siblings call my wife at all times of the day or night just to chat.
Her brother is divorced and lives by himself, so he has no reference to downtime.
Her sister is married, but she too, calls whenever the mood strikes.
This happens seven days a week.
My wife and I both work and have hectic days.
By 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. we are both ready for dinner (we both contribute equally and share all the household chores) and to spend some quality time together.
Her siblings have no concept of this.
Part of this is my wife’s fault because she will always answer their calls no matter what we are doing — and then she will chat about whatever the day’s topic might be.
I know that if I try to bring this up my wife will get mad, and the situation will only get worse.
— Frustrated with the in-laws
Dear Frustrated: This isn’t “partly” your wife’s fault/responsibility. The choice to take a call in the evening and converse with a sibling over nothing in particular is entirely her responsibility.
Your wife’s phone is equipped with a texting feature where she can see a call coming in and, with the press of one button, send an auto-text saying a variety of things: “Please text me,” “I’ll call you back,” etc.
You seem quite nervous about making your wife “mad,” with the added concern that she will retaliate, making things worse (for you). Is your fear and acquiescence the key to your long marriage? I hope not.
You should sit down with your wife and ask, “Can we agree to a moratorium on being on our phones in the evening … starting at 9 p.m. or so during the week? I would really like to set aside some time for us to be together as a family without interruptions.”
This might be especially important during your daughter’s time at home.
If your wife refuses to discuss this, arrive at a mutual solution, or retaliates against you for even suggesting it, then unfortunately you’ve got a bigger problem.
Dear Amy: My three children have given birth four times among them.
At each birth, the labor was “attended” by a bunch of groupies — mothers, fathers, mothers-in-law, sisters, friends, etc.
Also the husband — possibly lost in the crowd.
In each case I refused to participate in these mob vigils.
During the course of the proceedings a constant string of text updates and comments were issued.
In each case I refused to participate and announced that I would stay home and await the traditional phone call. One time, the birth was announced with only a text!
I told everyone that I regarded a birth as a solemn, intimate and very private event for the new parents. They thought I was goofy.
Are people live streaming their labor on Facebook yet?!
— Disgruntled Grannie
Dear Disgruntled: I can well understand your own impulse to let these babies be born without your presence crowding the room, but I think it might help you to understand that for many centuries and in many cultures, birth has been a community event, attended by relatives, friends, doulas, elders, and children.
The choice should be up to the parents alone, and others should respect their desire for privacy, if that’s what they want.
I assume that births are being broadcast live on Facebook, which is Reason Number Infinity why I am no longer active on that social media site.
Dear Amy: I can relate to “Exasperated Gift Giver.”
I’d rather get a “fill in the blank” Thank you note than nothing at all. Even a text would make me happy.
I started a new system. People get three chances (gifts) to acknowledge a gift, or they will no longer be getting gifts from me.
They might ask if I forgot their birthday or Christmas gift this year, but when I say that my last gift of sometimes $50 to $100 wasn’t acknowledged, I just assumed they didn’t really need anything from me. I’ve saved myself hurt feelings and a lot of money lately. I still send cards, but that’s it.
— Three Strikes
Dear Three Strikes: I like your solution.
(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.)
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