Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
My partner’s family are fairly religious (church every Sunday, religious art, religious music in their homes), while he and I are not. I’ve never overtly stated my religious beliefs to them (agnostic, but definitely not Christian), and my partner and I believe they think he is still somewhat religious, just less so than them. We are a straight couple in our late 20s/early 30s and live completely independently from them, though my partner is fairly close to his family and we live nearby.
My problem is that it’s almost a verbal tic for them to say things like, “I’m praying for you” or “Jesus saves” to me (and everyone) when any sort of issue, large or small, comes up and it’s starting to REALLY grate on me. I don’t at all push my (lack of) religion on them, and I do not believe that Jesus will help us find a new house! Can I gently ask them to knock this off? I have some other, unrelated tensions with them so I’ve hesitated to bring this one up. Is this worth it or should I just suck it up?
— Jesus Ain’t Coming
Dear Jesus Ain’t Coming,
“Is it worth bringing up” is a question only you can answer. Personally, I find it easy to take these comments for what they’re worth and accept them as well-wishes. It’s not as if someone who says “I’ll pray for you” is asking you to lead the family in prayer before a meal, attend a four-hour church service, or change your daily life to adhere to their interpretation of the Bible. You can choose to hear this as “I want good things for you and I’m thinking about that in the way that’s most meaningful and powerful to me.” But I’m not in your head, and I can’t tell how upsetting it is for you to hear these remarks or how much of a betrayal of yourself it feels like to simply say “Thanks for that.” If it truly leaves you deeply agitated and in a bad mood or makes you feel as if you’re having to hide who you are, you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you decide it must be addressed, your partner should be the one to have this sensitive conversation with his parents on your behalf.
One of my oldest friends has lost several friends to cross-country moves, and the friends who remain don’t treat her well. She’s leaned on me a lot as a result. The problem: She only ever wants to hang out in person, I live 90 minutes away, and she expects me to be the only one who travels. She has a car, I don’t, but she makes excuses not to visit (“Parking is hard!”). I take trains to get to her, but she refuses to do the same (“I’ll get lost!”). We don’t talk much outside of visits; she only ever messages me to say “We should hang out more,” without offering to make plans, so I wind up organizing everything. Is it wrong to resent this? I’ve tried bringing this up, but she still expects me to visit her even more than I already do without making any effort herself.
— Train Rides Can Get Expensive
Dear Train Rides,
No, it’s not wrong to resent this. Not at all. When she says “We should hang out more,” don’t snap into action and start playing social coordinator and making concessions to make things easier for her. Instead, you can simply say “We should!” or “I’d love to, let me know when you’ll be in my neck of the woods.” And then wait. When she makes excuses about parking and trains, your line is “That’s too bad but I understand—maybe some other time.” If she isn’t willing to go out of her way for you (and she hasn’t shared anything about anxiety or some other issue that truly makes it hard for her to put in more effort), it might be time to reevaluate whether she’s actually a close friend.
I have what I ultimately realize is a non-problem, that is nonetheless stumping me and my fiancé. Both my fiancé and I are very outgoing and enjoy public speaking and hamming it up somewhat. Many/most of our friends are pretty lively and loud. Both of our immediate families, however, are entirely introverts who would honestly prefer to be waterboarded than asked to speak in public. We are planning our wedding now, and trying to figure out how to make them feel included and to give them roles in which they will feel special, but also not put them on the spot or literally torture them. How do we do this? I feel like all of my ideas on how to make someone feel special involve making them the center of attention in some way, which is pretty much the exact thing that everyone in our immediate families is terrified of. But I also don’t want to just let them fade into the background, even if they would be more comfortable with that. Ideas?
— I Want You to Be in My Wedding, Not Torture You
Dear Not Torture,
This is so thoughtful of you! I say that as someone who dislikes public speaking and can generally only enjoy weddings until my time in the spotlight, giving a toast, is over. Here’s an idea: Since you and your fiancé like hamming it up, why don’t you each give a speech at the wedding that’s more than the typical quick “Thanks so much for coming.” You can use these remarks to pay tribute to the people who’ve supported you up until this point and let your loved ones know how much you appreciate them. Feel free to add a slideshow! If even being talked about and having all eyes turned to them would be too much, you could add as many pages as you need to the program to print heartfelt statements about how special these people are.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
My 1-year-old nephew can’t pronounce my name, Giselle, properly, so he calls me “Gizoo.” Of course, I don’t except him to pronounce my name properly, but I expected that eventually I’d go from “Auntie Gizoo” to “Auntie Giselle” when he became better at talking. The thing is, my sister and mother think that his name for me is adorable, and have started telling him things like “Honey, can you show Auntie Gizoo your new toy?” or referring to me as Gizoo when talking to him. How do I stop my family from making this baby talk my permanent nickname?