Dear Carolyn: My snowbird in-laws will soon return from Florida to their home in the Mid-Atlantic, where my partner and I live. Despite being well-informed people, they’ve ignored most news about the coronavirus, downplayed the risk and continued their highly social lives, which they insist is safe since they gather in groups of 10 or fewer.
My partner and I have taken great effort to limit any contact with others.
When my in-laws arrive in town, I know they’ll want to resume their pre-coronavirus lives, which includes weekly dinners with us. As long as they keep up their risky habits, I’d like to limit contact with them, but I am unsure how my partner and I can keep our distance without offending them. Help!
— Healthy (for now)
Healthy (for now): You’re avoiding contagion, not avoiding your in-laws.
Therefore, you are not giving offense.
If they choose to take offense, then that’s their decision.
It may feel more complicated, but it’s not. If the only way they won’t be offended is for you to resume your weekly dinners, then you have only two choices: risk contagion or risk unintended offense. That’s it.
I realize this simplicity will be sorely tested as states ease restrictions and leave more people to make their own risk calculations. But it’s still there at the foundation of every decision: You’re weighing the health risk, not flipping your loved ones the bird. As always, they will be at liberty to believe it’s the latter if they want to — so all you can do is hold kindly to your principles and hope others understand.
Dear Carolyn: My husband of 10 years is kind, loving, generous and mostly supportive. I was recently hospitalized for surgery — not life-threatening, but I spent the night there. My husband was at the hospital with me for maybe an hour over two days. He basically carried out his normal routine, and I was there alone. The hospital is so close to our house, he could have walked.
He told me he “doesn’t like hospitals” and thought I was in good hands. I heard, “I don’t care enough about you to be your advocate and ensure you get the care you need.”
As we get older, I will support him and be there for him. We are both in our early 60s. I worry he won’t be there for me. Is this a showstopper?
Don’t Want to Die Alone: If you said, “Please spend time with me, I don’t want to be alone,” and his answer was, “No, I don’t like hospitals,” then you know — he prioritizes his own feelings over yours. That would reasonably stop some shows.
If instead you assumed all hospital patients want company and assumed he knew that, then it’s time to stop assuming. “I should have been clear” is a good opener. Mention the importance of advocacy, and: “I don’t want to be alone.” Return that favor, too, by asking — then providing — what he’d want from you. Not what you’d want in his place.
That, after all, was his true mistake — not thinking hard enough about your needs to distinguish them from his own. That hurts, yes.
But if every flawed partner were a hopeless one, then we’d all be in post-op alone. Make your case and see what he says.
Write to Carolyn Hax at [email protected] Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.