Dear Carolyn • My wife takes great joy in planning creative ways to tell people big news. For example, when we purchased a house about a year ago, she gave our parents copies of the key and a card about how they are always welcome in our home. These are nice gestures that seem harmless. But she is eight weeks pregnant and is planning a creative way to tell people we are expecting, and then a creative way to reveal the gender in a few months. My parents have already implied these gestures make them feel uncomfortable, and I understand why: because when you hear big news, you typically want to hear it straight out, not in a clever little box. Also, I think these gestures put pressure on people to react in a very specific way. I feel this takes events that are exciting and important and makes them ceremonial — to which not everybody knows the proper reaction. My wife and I have a strong marriage, but I don’t know what to do, or if it is worth doing anything. My instinct is that the "big news" days of our lives are limited and in a few years there will no longer be these kinds of events.
Dear Expectation • Ha! You’re funny. An event-izer will always have events. I’m also no fan of the grin-indulgently-until-it-passes approach to differences. If your discomfort isn’t budging, then talk. First, though, watch those assumptions. You say, "you typically want to hear (big news) straight out, not in a clever little box." That’s your way, which is no more universal than your wife’s. Plus, you also say your parents "implied" discomfort. Don’t overvalue your hand. Next, drill into this: It puts "pressure on people to react in a very specific way." Orchestrating the grand gesture does flirt with control — of the scene, of the attention, of others’ reactions. I suggest you acknowledge her effort, then state concern that these efforts come with expectations. Then listen carefully. If she uses these creative unveilings to elicit a specific reaction, then that’s manipulation. With a baby coming, it’s imperative to reckon with any controlling tendencies now.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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