Should We Lie to My Parents?

Should We Lie to My Parents?


My parents are always concerned with how my husband and I are doing financially, even when we’re doing just fine. My dad, in particular, measures success in terms of how much money you make and includes financial advice and work questions in every conversation. My husband was recently fired from his job in a company downsizing. He is actively looking for work, but the situation has been hard on him (and he’s been hard on himself). We are seeing my parents soon, and work will inevitably come up. I think their lecturing my husband about his career would push him over the edge. Should we keep his job situation from them?

DAUGHTER

Parents, like most of us, have a pretty limited repertoire of triggers: certain relationships, physical appearance and, of course, money. (Pick your heritage!) I get that their worries may be irritating or hurtful to you. In my experience, though, the issues they bang on about usually have more to do with them than with you.

Your dad is probably more concerned with his own economic status than with yours. (Or he may think that yours reflects on his.) So, try a little tenderness when the lectures begin. This is his Achilles heel; you are unlikely to change him, and you get to go home soon enough.

As for keeping your husband’s job loss a secret from your parents, defer to your husband. It’s his story, and he has no obligation to share it. Be careful how you ask him, though. Acting as if his situation were shameful may make him feel even worse.

Say, “Do you want to get into the downsizing with my parents? You know how they are.” Then follow his lead. It may be annoying if he chooses the truth and your parents freak out. But asking him to lie may hurt him more than your parents ever could.

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Credit…Christoph Niemann

My husband is one of many siblings in their 20s and 30s. Anytime an uncle or aunt has an upcoming event, my father-in-law group texts all of his kids and their spouses: “Uncle Ted’s birthday/surgery/etc. is tomorrow. Please text him good wishes. His number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.” No one ever responds. My father-in-law has taken to sending second reminders. I appreciate his keeping us updated, but I’m growing tired of the command to text. Is there a nice way to tell him so?

KELLEY

Hello, generation gap! What you take as “command,” your father-in-law probably intends as a plea for connection. In the time it would take to “like” two posts on Instagram, your husband and his siblings could send a kind message to a relative who loves them, probably celebrated their various milestones, and even flew to their (let’s face it) dreary destination weddings.

It’s not as if our phones aren’t within easy reach all day. And yet, the children (and their spouses) ignore their father and probably don’t send the requested texts, either. Maybe these relationships mean nothing to them. But that seems sad too, like an erasure of history. I wouldn’t say anything to your father-in-law, Kelley. In fact, I’d encourage your husband to send the stupid texts.

An old friend told me about her new relationship that was moving fast. They were moving in together only weeks after meeting. She was head over heels. But the details she told me about the guy didn’t add up. So, I Googled him and discovered he has a history of legal problems — very different from the story my friend told me. What if she didn’t know? So, after agonizing, I told her what I learned. Thankfully, she already knew, but was extremely hurt that I Googled her boyfriend. Was I wrong to do it?

ANONYMOUS

Would you stop if I said you were? Like it or not, we are in the golden age of Googling prospective mates — and, to a lesser degree, everyone else. A few thoughts, though. Wouldn’t your pal almost certainly have Googled the man herself? And isn’t her embarrassment and upward revision of his checkered past understandable?

Even if she hadn’t checked him out online, she may have responded less angrily if you’d shared your concerns as a friend, rather than providing a dossier of proof like a private detective. “Are you sure about this guy’s story? I love you and just want to make sure you’re safe.” Who would take offense at that?

I made a dumb comment to my sister about a friend of hers who is overweight. I regretted it as soon as I said it. But my sister is totally rigid and unforgiving. She told me I was “canceled” and hasn’t spoken to me since the summer. I’ve apologized several times, and the holidays are coming up. Any ideas?

B.B.

Once we apologize sincerely, it’s generally out of our hands whether we’re forgiven. But sincerity requires more than puppy-dog eyes and a somber tone of voice. Maybe your sister would reinstate you if you convinced her you understood why your comment was nasty and what you learned from the episode. It couldn’t hurt, right?


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.



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