Sunday, November 19, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Ungrateful couple annoys rest of family; partners disagree about surrogacy

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Tardy, ungrateful pair drink too much, bring nothing in return

Q: I have some relatives who never arrive on time for family functions. When my parents were alive they chose to wait until the couple arrived, but after a few times the folks decided to start without them.

Now that my parents are gone, my sisters and I have decided to tell them to either arrive on time or just forget it. Are we being too rigid?

Also, they never offer to bring any food or drink and usually end up drinking all the alcohol that has been provided for all the guests. What say you?

Disgruntled Relative

A: Tardiness is the least of the problems your letter reveals. This couple drinks too much, takes too much, gives too little, blows off too much that matters and has proven too much for the problem-solving skills of two family generations.

Unfortunately, your recourse list is short.

(1) You can choose to offer strategic indulgence, which consists of expecting the worst from them; planning functions as usual, with firm resolve to embrace this couple when they behave and to starve them of attention when they don't; and making sure the bar is lightly stocked, if at all. (Risk involved: enabling.)

(2) You can go tough-love, and say they're not welcome if they can't arrive at a reasonable time or contribute a reasonable amount. (Risk: alienation of relatives who are a walking cry for help.)

(3) You can take an active interest in this couple to see whether their chaos has reached the point where concerned family members need to get involved. (Risk: drama creep.)

No. 3 is a bit misleading, since all the family involvement in the world can't help people who have no interest in owning, much less changing, their destructive behavior. But given that you still include this couple, I'm guessing the attachment — or the sense of obligation — runs deep. And in that case, doesn't it make sense to think more broadly about what you can do?

Partners disagree about passing on depression-disposed genes

Q: My same-sex partner and I are ready to start the process of surrogacy — once we overcome one major point of contention. While my partner and I share the desire to have a biological and genetic connection to our child, I am steadfast in refusing to consider passing on my genes.

I have struggled with major bouts of anxiety and depression since my early 20s. Mental illness is prevalent in my family and I think it's irresponsible to knowingly risk passing on a genetic predisposition to a difficult life, especially when my partner's genes would achieve the same result.

He discourages me from fortune-telling and laments denying a child the countless positive qualities I would pass on, but I'm unmoved. Help me find the words to convince him that I have our child-to-be's best interests at heart.

A.

A: You could continue to press the issue of genetic predisposition, which, yes, does involve some fortune-telling, but at least it's educated fortune-telling, given your family history.

But you're dug in, and he's dug in. So instead, I suggest accepting that you're stuck with one of four choices: You budge, he budges, you outsource the DNA completely, or you don't have a child. Next, I suggest having both of you, separately, number each of these in order of absolutely HONEST preference. Then, compare your lists. The comparison might not serve up a perfectly matched answer, but, it might unexpectedly jar one loose.

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