Dear Carolyn • Recently my wife's parents moved to our city. They have a dog, which their whole world revolves around. I can respect and accept what others do in their home, but I do not want any pets in our home or cars. I am not fond of dogs, and I am allergic to them. These people bring their dog EVERYWHERE: funerals, weddings, church, shopping. My wife will not say anything to her parents. If I do, no matter how I deliver the message, it will not be well received. These people are overly sensitive and one must watch carefully every word or they get offended. What can be done to get the message to these folks that they are welcome, but their dog is not? I don't know, if they see this in print, whether they would even realize the problems they cause between my wife and me.
Dear T. • You send the message by saying, "I'm allergic to dogs." Why hasn't your wife said it? It's a slam-dunk.
Dear Carolyn • She does not want to hurt her parents' feelings.
Dear T. • So she'd rather have you wheeze than upset her parents? Doesn't that strike you as ... problematic?
Dear Carolyn • Of course. Her parents have always been her priority.
Dear T. • So the pet dander and dog-centric in-laws aren't your problem, or your marriage's. Your problem: Your wife puts fear of offending her parents at the center of everything without regard for cost and you've put up with it. The former isn't yours to solve, unless your wife recognizes her misplaced priorities and wants help doing the hard work to change them or is close enough to this epiphany to be nudged into it through honest conversation. I should say, the work isn't technically hard. It's just a matter of swapping out one set of negative consequences for another and, call me biased, the consequences of offending emotional tyrants sound delightful compared with the consequence of kowtowing to them, and of having a permanent wedge in my marriage.
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