Hi, Carolyn:

Two years ago my brother and his now-wife were preparing to get married and felt so much pressure, judgment and negativity from my parents leading up to the wedding that they almost uninvited them. That relationship has since repaired a bit, though there is still a lot of tension.

My parents are now applying the screws to my relationship. They disapprove. Have resorted to screaming and yelling, angry 2 a.m. emails, and making it blatantly clear my significant other is unwelcome at holidays. 

I’ve explained boundaries to them: that if this relationship does work, they’re making it really stressful, and if it doesn’t, I will distance myself from them to avoid this type of intervention in the future.

I’m a successful person in my early 30s . How do I make it go away without cutting them out?


What you set down is not a boundary, it’s a pair of consequences. Consequences are an important part of boundaries, but they need to be immediate, concrete and directed at the people whose invasiveness you’re trying to thwart.

One of your consequences is so deep into the future as to be nearly abstract: If your relationship doesn’t work out then you’ll move away? Imagine a mousetrap that snaps two years post-snatching of cheese. Your other consequence is “making it really stressful” — for you. So, they snatch the cheese, and you get snapped?

A viable boundary involves a cause (their behavior), an effect (your response to their behavior), a clear statement of your position and a direct consequence:

Cause: “Mom, Dad — recently you’ve responded to my choices with pressure, judgment and negativity, and you did a similar thing to Brother as he was planning his wedding.”

Effect: “When you scream, yell and send me 2 a.m. emails, I feel stressed and (other feelings here).”

Position: “I will not discuss my relationship or my decisions with you until you’re ready to trust that you raised me well enough to handle my own life, including my mistakes .”

Consequence: If they keep up the hysterics, you respond calmly and decisively by ... hanging up the phone/leaving the room/deleting the email/opting out of the family holiday.

This gives your parents a chance to make an immediate connection — that if they impose their opinions on you when you haven’t asked for them, then you will not stick around to be badgered. .

Dear Carolyn:

My daughter is engaged. This will be her second marriage and her fiance’s first. Her first wedding was a traditional, expensive affair that my wife and I paid for.

We are wondering what we should be doing for her second wedding. We are approaching retirement age and need to continue throwing money there. We have a son who likely will be getting married in a year or two and another son who hopefully will be following suit in the not distant future. First marriages for both. My daughter is in her early 30s and the fiance is a year younger.

— Anonymous

Short answer: Do whatever you want. Slightly less short answer: Do what you can afford and think is fair to all your kids.

Preachy answer: Don’t let your opinion of marriage or remarriage influence your decision.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax