Dear Carolyn: My brother and sister-in-law have been critical of the fact that we are planners. If we invite them for a dinner party, then we generally send out an invitation, date, time, occasion and ask for an RSVP. We never hear back. Weve called and left messages on the phone, texted, emailed, but they dont let us know if they are coming. My husband is gracious enough to say, Just make enough. If they dont come, well have leftovers. They are a family of four.
Weve heard through others that they are upset that we dont check the dates and times with them before making plans.
So another Fathers Day came and went. My dad was so hurt when they didnt show. It turned out that their son had a game. If they had asked, Can we reschedule? then we would have. If they had told us they couldnt make it, we would have understood. The no-show felt disrespectful.
Are we in the wrong? Should we be checking with them first when we host dinners to see if it fits their schedule? Or are they in the wrong for not RSVP-ing and if so, is there anything we can do about it? We cant make them RSVP.
Or is my husband right, should we keep inviting them and make enough food just in case?
We would like to keep a relationship with them, were just not sure how to best navigate the non-responses. An Organized but Frustrated Host
Carolyn Says: Depends. Do you want to win, or gather?
The etiquette angle here is a no-brainer. Their non-responses to your invitations and voice mails and texts and emails are as rude and passive-aggressive as it gets. If these were friends of yours, Id be saying right about now that these arent really friends of yours.
The family angle here is a no-brainer. You set a Fathers Day dinner for your dad without clearing the time with his son? Really?
If I had to guess (which I dont but will anyway, because Im in a bomb-throwing kind of mood), Id say youre looking at a sister-in-law who is bent out of shape over mistreatment, real or perceived, by you specifically or by your family in general, and is using these occasions as her proverbial duel at dawn. So far, your response has been to clean your pistol and set your alarm, under the faultlessly polite guise of planning and asking for an RSVP.
Maybe its more 10-foot-pole than pistol, but no matter. Its still not the kind, compassionate or mature answer. The answer is to treat your brother and sister-in-law as family and not guests. Its to talk to your brother Hey, lets figure out a way to handle these family events that works for both of us, because the current standoff is ridonkulous instead of relying on grudge reports from third parties.
And, mainly, its to loosen your grip on Your Way of Doing Things and consider a more flexible way to handle the events you host.
When you want to host a family-centric gathering, CALL YOUR BROTHER AND SISTER-IN-LAW, for the love of lasagna, and yes, Im screaming. Ask them if Saturday the nth works for a celebration of so-and-sos birthday.
Conversely, when you are just being social and including this family among friends of yours for a dinner or cocktail party, then give them the standard invitation treatment, where you pick a date and if they cant make it, then, oh well, seeya next time. As a gesture of peace, also follow up your formal invitations with a quick voice mail: Hey, just sent you an invitation to a party were having the Saturday after next. Would love to see you there, but totally understand if you have other plans, lemme know, click.
It may be theyre too invested in this grudge to let go so easily. That would be unfortunate, but also out of your reach. You can only fix your half of it which begins, as always, with admitting its there.
Save wine for the neighbors
Dear Carolyn: I have an amazing and supportive husband who I am thankful for every day. Recently, I have been overwhelmed at work and my husband has stepped up and taken over pet care and housework, and he even drives me to work when his schedule allows.
Of course, Ive thanked him, but any recommendations on new ways to show him appreciation? Ive brought home nice wine or taken him to dinner so much that its beginning to feel too easy. Were also on a tight budget. T.
Carolyn Says: It is too easy nice wine is what you give a neighbor who gets your mail while youre away.
To thank your husband, take care of him in small ways that youre able to and that you normally dont. Examples hard to give, since its only right if its something he values. Foot rub, anyone?
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