Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for four years. Even before tying the knot, I noticed that his family always contacted me regarding details for birthdays, get-togethers, celebrations, etc.
I am bombarded with messages from his mother, aunts, grandmother and cousins asking if we will be participating in gift exchanges, to please provide gift lists for my husband and myself, to let us know when holiday dinners are taking place, etc.
Amy, my husband is a responsible guy! These are his family members!
Every year, I try to politely (behind gritted teeth) steer these queries toward my husband. Every year I am sought out (ahem, hunted down) for information.
We are both close with each-others’ families, but early on decided that he would buy gifts, cards, remember birthdays and anniversaries and such for his family, and I would handle the same for my family. Now I’m handling both.
Am I being too sensitive? Does this happen in other relationships, where the family matter details are delegated to the woman? For the sake of my blood pressure, please help! —Stressed
Dear Stressed: Yes, this gendered treatment does happen, and yes, you are being too sensitive.
Drop the notion that your husband’s family is only seeking your opinion on gifts because you’re a woman. Consider another, more shocking alternative: they like you.
It sounds like these relatives are reaching out because you are part of their family. Keeping special occasions as his-and-hers events is a bold goal, but I know from experience that it doesn’t work; families are messy, and the sooner you drop the idea that each spouse deals exclusively with their own side, the better.
Before your next special occasion, instead of waiting with gritted teeth for these relatives to contact you, you (and especially your husband) should take the initiative and contact them first. You and he could also basically “switch sides,” with him handling your family stuff, and you handling his, and see how that goes.
Dear Amy: “Debating DNA” was wondering about contacting a “secret” half-sibling who had emerged after DNA testing. Thank you so much for understanding the complicated issues surrounding these revelations. Most important (to me) was this: “No matter what anyone thinks about the actions of the parents, the siblings did nothing wrong.” —Grateful
Dear Grateful: This issue is increasingly common, and I believe that—overall—these revelations have mainly positive endings.