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ASK AMY: Spouse’s solo wanders leave others to wonder

Dear Amy: I hope you can help me with a response for when people ask me why I don’t go on trips with my husband.

A few years back, my 57-year-old husband of 33 years told me that he was retiring.

I had no say in it, and it didn’t matter to him that his choice would make things financially difficult.

He said he wanted to travel before he got too old, and if I didn’t understand that, then I don’t care about him, and he would go without me.

I have always been the primary breadwinner, so he didn’t think it would be a big deal for me to be the ONLY breadwinner.

This has been very hard on our marriage, and I’m working on what to do about that. Meanwhile, at this time of year when we see family and they ask what we’re up to, my husband gushes about his upcoming trips.

Inevitably, they turn to me and ask why I don’t join him.

Some sit me down and try to convince me that I should join him. My husband just says that I’m no fun.

Nobody seems to realize that someone has to pay for his excursions, not to mention the mortgage, food, etc.

Can you help me to come up with a response to: “Why don’t you have some fun and travel with your husband?’

— Grounded

Dear Grounded: I respect your perspective on this, but would first ask that you do a little work to determine whether, in fact, you would choose to go on any of these trips, even if you could. Some people don’t like to travel. Some — like me — enjoy traveling but (basically) hate to leave home.

In your case, because there seems to be such a lack of balance in your relationship — and so much tension — you might not choose to travel because you don’t enjoy being dominated by your husband, who expresses such a lack of respect for you. Your very long marriage might continue on its current track precisely because you don’t spend all of your time together.

You should not be forced to finance your husband’s trips. If he is racking up debt (or depleting savings) to travel, you should consult with a family law attorney to see whether you as an individual are responsible for your spouse’s debts (the answer seems to be: “It depends”).

You should also research the idea of negotiating a “postnuptial agreement,” where you mutually agree how to divide your assets and income during your marriage.

But your question is really about what to say to people when they grill you about your own choices. You can respond with your version of the truth: “I’m working hard to pay for my husband’s trips.” Or something less specific: “I’m tied down with work and obligations at home.” If people call you a “stick in the mud” over this, then that’s on them. Own your individual choice, and don’t apologize for it.

Dear Amy: It’s the holiday season and I’m lucky enough to go to a few catered holiday parties.

This is probably a goofy question, but when I am at these events, should I tip the catering staff?

— Grateful Guest

Dear Grateful: Many hosts tip their catering staff independently — or the catering company will add on a service charge to be distributed to the catering staff. If there is a tip jar at the bar, then put $1 or $2 in per drink. If there is no jar, then ask the bartender if they are permitted to take tips.

If you are seated at a table and one or two individuals take care of your table — filling water glasses, bussing your plates, and bringing dessert to you, it would be thoughtful to slip $5 under your plate before you leave, but it is neither expected nor required.

Dear Amy: My heart broke when I read the letter from “Loving Husband,” whose wife demanded secrecy for her cancer diagnosis.

I had a family member who made a similar demand, and the pressure it placed on the rest of us was almost unbearable. We all struggled to provide support, while maintaining extreme secrecy about the diagnosis.

I am glad you suggested that this loving husband should receive support for his own struggle. I hope that his wife is able to let him off the hook, so he has the freedom to describe the challenges in his own life.

— Grieving

Dear Grieving: I felt enormous compassion for both spouses.

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ASK AMY: Newlywed won’t ‘meet the parents’ in footie PJs

Dear Amy: I am a newlywed. The holiday season is upon us, and I’m trying to coordinate between families, and also get myself into the spirit.

However, there is one tradition my husband’s family has that I don’t understand. I’m not sure how I can fit into this tradition.

Ever since they were children, on Christmas morning, “the kids” (my husband and his now-adult sister) would come down the stairs to open gifts, and their father would video-record it.

Well, we are 26 now, and both siblings live on their own outside of the house, but my in-laws still think we should do this tradition.

I tried to bring this up to them, saying that we won’t even be at their home on Christmas morning, but they brushed it off, saying, “We can do it when you come over at 2 o’clock.”

I know it is hard to see your kids grow up, but I did marry their son this year. My husband and I live in our own home about 20 minutes away and visit regularly.

Last year, I was not included in this tradition because I was still “the girlfriend.” This year, even if they ask, I’m not sure I want to be included.

Please help me relate to this tradition. I understand it as children, but just as you stop taking pictures of the kids on their first day of school, shouldn’t this group grow up?

Holiday Grown-ups

Dear Holiday: This is one of the wackiest and most wonderful holiday traditions I’ve ever heard of, and, as dumb as you find it to be, I think you should sit back with a beverage, pull out your phone, and enjoy and film it, in all of its cringy glory. (You could then “bank” the video, in case you might need it one day, to use as some good-natured spousal blackmail.)

This has a “Meet the Parents” quality to it, and I can only hope the adult children dress up in matching “footie” onesies in order to scamper down the stairs and greet their Santa-haul.

Unless this family engages in (other) creepy and/or juvenile or infantilizing behaviour, I think you should see this as a delightful annual one-off. Do not attempt to get in on it. You don’t have to do every single thing your husband does. Nor do you need to convince him to stop participating in a silly ritual that might actually have meaning for all of them. Although it would be gracious for them to attempt to include you, you could easily and politely demur.

It would be a fun project for someone to splice together over two decades of this footage into a montage. If you are good at this sort of thing, you might give it to the family as a holiday gift next year.

Dear Amy: I keep in touch with an old, out-of-town friend by phone several times a year.

My friend recently had to move his elderly mother into a memory care centre following her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

When we speak next, should I ask how his mom is doing?

I’m reluctant to raise an obviously painful subject in the course of an otherwise pleasant conversation.

— R

Dear R: Not only should you ask your friend how his mother is doing, but to avoid this important subject would be insensitive, and would not serve your friendship.

Your friend’s mother hasn’t disappeared. She exists in the world, and presumably is still very much in his life.

Yes, this topic might be painful. But friends should be invited to discuss even painful life events, and be given the time and space to tell their story, if they choose to.

If your friend finds his mother’s situation too challenging to discuss, he will telegraph this by giving a truncated or noncommittal answer. Then you can move onto another topic.

Dear Amy: I appreciated your musings on being addressed as “young lady” by patronizing strangers.

Just the other day, I told my wife how angry it made me when young people trying to be cute call me “young man.” This has been happening for years.

I am a 78-year-old man.

This is just not a “young lady” phenomenon — it is heard by both sexes, and I believe it’s an example of ageism. Thanks for bringing it up.

— Ray in Tucson, Ariz.

Dear Ray: Many mature men have responded to the question from the woman signed “Not Young,” who reported how annoying it is to be greeted this way.

Nobody likes it.

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