DEAR AMY: I became engaged to my boyfriend yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. My mother, however, is not pleased. My fiance and future mother-in-law wanted to keep the proposal a surprise, so they tried to coax my mother to attend a family function at their house. They were unable to get her to come and so they invited my father’s family (whom I just connected with a few years ago).
A video of the marriage proposal was put on Facebook (with my approval) and my mother became upset that she wasn’t included or told (but my father, his family, and some close members of my in-law’s family were told).
My fiance and his family are no longer welcome at my mother’s house (where I’m living) and I can’t seem to console my mother. Please help.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Wow. You all blew it, big time. First of all, your fiance’s (and his mother’s) desire to turn this proposal into an extravaganza seems to have clouded his (and your) judgment. Despite the current trend toward over-the-top proposals, your engagement should not be a piece of theater, and because he made it one – now you both know what it feels like when the reviews come in and you learn your show has bombed.
And what were you thinking to post a public video of your engagement without first telling your mother in person? This is NOT the way for your fiance to ingratiate himself to his future mother-in-law.
You and your fiance should apologize to your mother. In person. If she won’t allow him into her house, perhaps he would like to make a production out of it and borrow a bullhorn and ask for her forgiveness from her front lawn. I envision a high school marching band playing the “classic country” song “I’m Sorry,” a large bouquet of flowers, a sincere apology and a plea for her forgiveness.
As an engagement gift to both of you, she should offer her forgiveness and you should start over.
DEAR AMY: My sister, who is very warmhearted and giving by nature, has a side to her that I find next-to-impossible to tolerate. We both take on responsibilities in relation to helping our elderly parents manage their affairs. I know she has my parents’ best interest at heart.
My gripe is this: It seems that every conversation we have (or email she sends to me) includes either a rebuke relative to my actions, or a suggestion she proposes I carry out.
She speaks (and phrases her emails) in a manner that makes her words feel to me like instructions, commands or demands. I don’t enjoy it. My perception is that she thinks (or hopes) that she can control my actions with her directives.
I find the combination of inferred criticism/suggestions tiring and uncomfortable. What can I do? We live in different states, which makes face-to-face conversation only intermittent.
Worn Out and Beaten Down
DEAR WORN OUT: Let me guess – your sister is older than you, and/or a supervisor at work, and/or a busy professional know-it-all. Birth order, profession, temperament and how you both perceive your relationship with your parents (and with each other) will dictate your respective behavior, communication style and how you respond to emergencies and directives.
You should respond to this annoyance by first realizing that it is (only) an annoyance and that overall you two are doing well. Respond to her with an honest but good-humored assessment of how her communication style affects you.
Tell her, “I appreciate how well we work together, but sometimes when we are discussing our folks’ care, I feel like you tell me to do things rather than talk to me about me doing these tasks. I do better with a discussion rather than a directive. Remember how when we were kids I would sometimes yell ‘You’re not the boss of me' when I got mad at you? Well, that’s how I feel! Things would be easier on me if we both remembered that we aren’t each other’s employees, but sisters working toward a common goal.”
DEAR AMY: I’d like to lend my voice in support to “Emotionally Exhausted Daughter,” the teenager who was exhausted and sad after dealing with her alcoholic mother. Wow. That was my life as a teenager, and my heart broke for her. I hope she finds help and support from other reliable adults.
DEAR BEEN THERE: So many children of alcoholics have written supportive messages. Thank you all.
Write Amy Dickinson at email@example.com.