Ask Amy: Spouse worries about awkward in-law love
Dear Amy: My husband and I are middle-aged. We got married five years ago.
My husband’s parents live out of state. I only met them one time before we got married, and now see them about twice a year for a day or two.
Every visit or phone call is ended with them saying, “Love you.” It makes no difference if I am alone or with my husband.
I understand them saying this to my husband, but it is very awkward when this statement is addressed to me.
They are nice people, and I like them, but I don’t love them.
They barely know me and I really doubt that they love me.
Any suggestions on how to fill the awkward silence after they say, “Love you”? — Awkward
Dear Awkward: There are many different kinds of love, and the way we express our feelings of affection are usually established in our birth family and home culture. I’m going to assume that your family is much more reserved than your husband’s, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there is also nothing wrong with what your in-laws are doing.
Please don’t doubt their feelings. They likely loved you before they even met you, because for them, when you got married, you instantly became a member of the family. Plus, their son loves you.
I have attended houses of worship, meditation retreats, friendship circles, yoga sessions and book clubs where everybody greets everybody else with an expression of love, whether or not you’re a stranger. I used to think that these expressions “cheapened” the whole love concept, but I’ve changed my mind.
I now think this sort of brotherly, sisterly, humankind love is beautiful and has a way of opening up a person. As I get older, I regret not expressing love to more people in my life, including family members, teachers, readers, friends and fans.
One suggestion is that you might examine what it would be like to fill this awkward space with, “Oh, love you, too.” I suspect that the minute you said it, you would feel an interior shift.
However, if you don’t want to do this, you can respond with, “Thank you. I feel very lucky. You two are great, and I always enjoy talking to you.”
Dear Amy: I am in high school. I live with my parents and siblings. I have had a mainly happy and healthy childhood.
I recently found out, through invading my father’s privacy, that my father cheated on my mother. He was acting suspiciously while messaging after he returned from an event and I snuck a look at his phone.
Disrespecting my father’s privacy was wrong of me, but I feel that what he did was much worse than what I did, and I cannot undo or ignore what I found.
From what I saw, my father and this other woman plan to continue contact. My father does not know that I know, and my mother does not know about the situation at all.
I have no idea what to do, but doing nothing is not an option, as I am hurt as a result of this.
I do not want to tell my mom. It would definitely hurt her. I’m hurt, too, but I have other things (school, etc.) to worry about, and I do not want to mess up what I thought was a strong family dynamic.
Should I confront my dad and tell him to put his family first? — Upset
Dear Upset: Yes, you should confront your father.
No, you shouldn’t tell him to put his family first.
The reason you shouldn’t tell your father how to run his priorities is because the minute you start telling him how to behave, he’s going to stop listening and become defensive. And then he’ll turn the focus to your behaviour, and how you invaded his privacy.
Speak to him privately. Cop to what you did (get that out of the way), and then tell him how all of this makes you feel. Use “I” statements: “I’m worried,” “I’m upset,” “This makes me feel really upset about you and mom.”
None of this is your fault. I hope your father can get it together.
Dear Amy: Your kind reminder, in response to “Dad of a Transgender,” is inspired and worthy of a bumper sticker: “Our perceptions are changing, one conversation at a time.” Thank you. — Patricia in Seattle
Dear Patricia: Thank you very much.