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03 Feb 2014
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In the News
Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax: A wife who loves to orchestrate her big news makes husband uncomfortable
By Carolyn Hax,
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn:
Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of “relationship cartoonist” Nick Galifianakis. She is the author of “Tell Me About It” (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon.
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My wife takes great joy in planning creative ways to tell people big news. For example, when we purchased a house about a year ago, she gave our parents copies of the key and a card about how they are always welcome in our home. These are nice gestures that seem harmless.
But she is eight weeks pregnant and is planning a creative way to tell people we are expecting, and then a creative way to reveal the gender in a few months. My parents have already implied these gestures make them feel uncomfortable, and I understand why: because when you hear big news, you typically want to hear it straight out, not in a clever little box.
Also, I think these gestures put pressure on people to react in a very specific way. I feel this takes events that are exciting and important and makes them ceremonial — to which not everybody knows the proper reaction.
My wife and I have a strong marriage, but I don’t know what to do, or if it is worth doing anything. My instinct is that the “big news” days of our lives are limited and in a few years there will no longer be these kinds of events.
Ha! You’re funny.
An event-izer will always have events.
I’m also no fan of the grin-indulgently-until-it-passes approach to differences. If your discomfort isn’t budging, then talk.
First, though, watch those assumptions. You say, “you typically want to hear [big news] straight out, not in a clever little box.” That’s your way, which is no more universal than your wife’s. Plus, you also say your parents “implied” discomfort. Don’t overvalue your hand.
Next, drill into this: “It puts pressure on those around her to react in a very specific way.” Orchestrating the grand gesture does flirt with control — of the scene, of the attention, of others’ reactions.
I suggest you acknowledge her effort, then state concern that these efforts come with expectations. Then listen carefully. If she uses these creative unveilings to elicit a specific reaction, then that’s manipulation. With a baby coming, it’s imperative to reckon with any controlling tendencies now.
Re: Expectation:
I cannot begin to tell you how crushed I have been on a number of occasions because of my husband’s non-reaction to something creative I did. You are on the edge of calling her silly (as compared to you and your parents who do things the “right way”).
Can you not see her joy? WHY is it so important to tone down or stop something she enjoys — that is not hurting anyone?
I am torn. Yes, I get embracing her joy. But I get the discomfort he’s talking about with being handed an orchestrated release of news.
If your proposal is on a stadium JumboTron, so be it — but mine? I’ll be wanting some say. Not to “tone down” my partner, but to explain that I’m not comfortable in spotlights, so can we find some middle ground? Remember, your husband could just as easily be asking why you keep setting him up to fail you with these big creative gestures instead of accepting him as he is.
This couple needs to talk, understand, work together.
Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com​. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost​.
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