DEAR CAROLYN: My husband asked me how I want to celebrate Mother's Day with our baby, and I suggested the three of us go to brunch Saturday so we could leave Sunday open to celebrate our own mothers. He agreed to that, but then I overheard him telling his mom on the phone that he will be busy with me all day on Sunday (not true).
My mother-in-law is a very sweet person and a very giving, generous mother, but her two adult sons find her tiresome because her interests are fairly provincial and her conversation gets repetitive. She lives 10 miles away, yet my husband rarely makes time to see her.
This isn't the example I want set for our son -- one of the main reasons it was so important that we prioritize his grandmothers on Mother's Day. Yet I can't really force my husband to see his mom if he doesn't want to. At the very least, I don't want to be a party to his lie. Any suggestions?
DEAR READER: You can't force him to see his mom, but you can see her yourself, I suggest regularly, and take the baby to nurture their bond.
And you can break the odd and unhelpful silence between you and your husband on this.
"This" being not just brunch plans from a bygone Sunday, but the big, important ideas of family and forgiveness and honesty and example-setting. And of course communication, since you and I are the ones talking where he has only been overheard.
So start with that: "I heard you tell your mom you were busy on Mother's Day. I was confused -- I thought we'd agreed to see her. Did something change?"
The phrasing here is deliberate in avoiding any kind of accusation, because defensiveness is an intimacy killer and the whole point here isn't to start a fight or avoid one, but to get to the truth. You also don't yet know the whole story; maybe there's a reasonable explanation that didn't occur to you.
If the answer is just aversion to seeing his mother, then you can touch on your preference that he just tell you so upfront -- and then focus on the example-twofer it sets to lie your way out of elder visits. Certainly he can envision a future where you two become the drab oldsters to your someday grown son, yes? Even if you're scintillating company, the first time one of you gets sick, you'll hardly count to 10 before wishing you'd taught your boy to show up.
Depending on how this part of the conversation goes, you can then bring up your discomfort with his saying one thing to you and another to his mom, and/or with the pressure that devolves to you when he opts -- unilaterally -- for the white-lie method of social avoidance.
We're now ... let's see, 1-2-3-4 layers into our dissection and haven't even gotten to the forgiveness part, where we recognize it's OK to give the "very sweet" and "very giving, generous" people who raised us a pass on getting a little repetitive with age.
And that in turn says there's a risk of piling on in this talk with your husband. If your instincts say, "choose your battles," choose honest communication; that's groundwork for any- or everything else.
Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email
Weekend on 06/07/2018
Print Headline: Getting to the truth -- without accusations or judgments