Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
DEAR STACY: Both my husband’s family and my own live in different states than we do. My family comes to visit us quite a few times throughout the year, which is wonderful. My husband’s family never comes to visit us. It seems to bother me more than him! I find it hard to believe his parents, especially his mother who has no other kids, never come and visit us. If not for us, then for our two small children, who barely know their own grandparents. I can’t fathom that they won’tcomeseeus–Iwouldbesohurtifmy family treated us that way! There’s no finan- cial or physical reason for them not to travel, and they’re very warm and friendly if we go see them. There’s no sort of family animosity. Should I be so bothered by the fact that they won’t make time for my husband or his family? Should I encourage my husband to confront them about it? ––Feeling Exiled
DEAR EXILED, I totally get this. I know how hard it is to live far from family and feeling like we may only to see them (and, let’s be honest, enjoy their on-site support when raising kids) when we make the fairly compli- cated effort to export our family unit to theirs. Knowing the cliché that grandkids supposedly are catnip for grandparents, it is surprising that these grandparents don’t travel to see their own, especially since you know of no financial or physical reason preventing them from making the trip. But the truth is, we just don’t have enough data. We don’t know why they won’t travel – in fact, we don’t actually know that they won’t, just that they haven’t, so far. When we don’t have the facts, human brains tend to make up their own stories and then those stories take on a life of their own (e.g. They think we have a dirty house; they don’t like the food we prepare; they just don’t like us). Unless I’m missing something, this prob- ably doesn’t need to be a confrontation at all – although I’m sure it might feel like a charged topic on your end because you just haven’t been talking about it openly for so long. Help Husband take a deep breath and then launch a calm Q&A with Grandma or Grandpa about whether they’d like to come visit “this sum- mer,” followed by the kind sentiment of, “We’d really love to see you.” If they deflect or make an excuse, there is nothing wrong with asking about it. The end result you want is that they feel like they can be close to you – that usually starts when people feel safe and comfortable communicating on that deeper level. Good luck!
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC. com) is a licensed professional counselor and cer- tified Imago Relationship therapist, practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertain- ment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.