Fiancée's illness meets disapproval

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: September 19, 2010 - 12:48 PM

Dear Carolyn: A friend of mine is getting married to a woman who has multiple sclerosis. His family is very upset by this fact (along with a few other issues they have with his bride-to-be). Should something like having a chronic illness even be a consideration when choosing the person to spend the rest of your life with? I wonder if my friend is setting himself up for a very difficult road ahead.

Carolyn says: Of course he is.

And, of course a chronic illness should be a serious consideration -- your friend would be doing this woman no favors if he didn't take her prognosis heavily into account -- but for many people it's not a make-or-break consideration.

The way you pose your question, I'm not sure whether the "difficult road" you anticipate is the multiple sclerosis, or the disapproving family. Either way, you're right. However, there are plenty of people who think the toughest road would be the one traveled without the person they love.

Now, it's not as if illness spins jerks into gold; if your friend's family has legitimate concerns about the fiancée's character, then I do hope they'll spell this out for him.

But if your friend feels, eyes open, that his fiancée is the one he wants at his side, and if his family's objection is to her illness (with the "few other issues" thrown out there as a fig leaf), then all I can say is, shame on them. Even though I utterly loathe that expression.

Bypassing nosy in-law

Dear Carolyn: How do I handle the multitude of questions that come from my daughter-in-law regarding activities or trips I'm taking? To my son I say, "I'm going to the mountains for the weekend." He responds, "Sounds like fun," and that is it.

Daughter-in-law says, rapid-fire, "When are you leaving, is X going with you, what will you do there, when will you be back?" I know it is her nature to be a bit nosy, and I have nothing to hide, so I find myself pouring everything out like she was a sol-sister.

Unfortunately, she stores the information and later throws little digs my way, like she is keeping a scorecard on where I go and who I'm with. Her timing with these digs is remarkable, always implying that I don't spend equal time with her kids. I need help in not buying into her nosiness in the first place.

Carolyn says: You do want to cut her ammunition supply, but she'll always have something; the sniping is what you need to stop. Call your daughter-in-law on the nasty asides: "If there's something I do that bothers you, please say so -- I'm happy to talk about it." This serves notice that her snark attacks don't scare you -- they only make her look petty.

After that, ignore her jabs, except to say occasionally, "Is there something you'd like to say?"

Once you've established a firm boundary, you'll be free to address her future inquisitions with prepared non-answers. Have a few handy that you can use in repertory: "So many questions!" "I'll fax you a detailed itinerary." "I'm touched that you care."

Or give your trip dates (which may be of legitimate use to her), then change the subject.

With people who throw you off-balance, anticipation serves as a brace.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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