A Bride’s Tough Call Over a Turn of Phrase

By Wendy Belzberg

Published November 21, 2003, issue of November 21, 2003.

My fiance and I both are the products of divorce. Our mothers are each contributing to our wedding, but we are paying 75% of the cost on our own. We decided that the invitation should read “together with our families” we invite you to join us at our wedding. My future mother-in-law was outraged by our choice of language, saying that it was hurtful and made it sound like we don’t have parents. She wants her name included on the invitation. Even though my mother does not care, if I change the copy I will do so to include both of our mothers. How should we phrase the invitation?

— Inviting disaster?

If your mother-in-law feels that her contribution entitles her to full billing, I suggest you return her deposit. This is your wedding, not hers. Moreover, this may well be a sign of what is to come: A mother-in-law who likes to object will be very happy with a daughter-in-law who is happy to accommodate. If you don’t set the right tone now, you and your husband may be sliding down a slippery slope. What about a calm talk about how you certainly don’t mean to hurt your mother-in-law’s feelings but must go with the language you like best? Besides, unless both of your fathers are dead, you will no sooner have rewritten the invitation before you hear from the other halves of your families.

* * *

I usually wash the dishes after dinner. Two nights ago I was doing homework with our daughter, and I fell asleep. My wife, who doesn’t work, called me at work the following day to say the four dishes from dinner would be waiting for me when I got home. Sure enough, four dishes with scraps were sitting on the kitchen table when I returned from work.

— In a scrap over kitchen scraps

I don’t know what the question is, but here’s my answer: Get a divorce. But perhaps I’m being too harsh. First, put your foot down. Hard. If your wife didn’t believe she could get away with such idiotic and abusive behavior, she wouldn’t think of trying. Did you do the dishes or are they still sitting there? (I rest my case.) This kind of dynamic doesn’t work for anyone, but it’s most unattractive in front of a child, who presumably has something to learn about relationships. Get counseling. Get tough. Or get out.

* * *

I feel like my mother-in-law favors her other daughter-in-law over me. Every exchange between my sister-in-law and me feels like a competition for our mother-in-law’s attention. I admit it: I want to “outdo” her — even though I know it’s wrong. Am I just jealous, or is my sister-in-law just mean?

— Stuck on sibling-in-law rivalry

There is a key player missing from the field: your husband. Does he like your sister-in-law more than he likes you? Does he like his mother more than he likes you?

If the answer to the above questions is a categorical no, I urge you to remove yourself from this lose-lose equation. And you might want to give a thought to why you are investing so much in your in-laws. If this is some unfinished piece of business having to do with your own family, go directly to the source and work it out with the real players. Otherwise, there is no explanation for being sucked into the demeaning dynamics of a second family, whose approval you don’t need. If you want to earn someone’s approval, why not expend the extra effort on your husband. He’s the one you married. By the way, you don’t mention where you live. But if you live in the same community as your various in-laws, now is a good time to move.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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