Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Brother and his new wife perceive every invitation as a threat to couple time

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

My brother got married three months ago. My parents, husband, baby and I are on a two-week-long vacation with him and "Sandy," our first group vacation with her. We are all sharing a rather large house, and each couple has plenty of time to themselves.

Yet my brother and Sandy are behaving as though their boundaries are deeply in danger. For example, my husband and I invited them to go for margaritas with us while my parents baby-sat. Instead of, "No thanks," or even, "No thanks, we're going to [alternate plans]," we got, "No thanks, we need to insist on some space tonight and also that we stick to doing what the two of us want to do this week."

It was very unexpected, since we don't see them often at all and didn't feel our invitation was forceful enough to warrant that kind of response.

They gave a similar response the next time we invited them. This morning, I brought the baby into the shared kitchen for breakfast and the two of them immediately vacated, saying, "Sorry, we're trying to find a spot for just the two of us to talk."

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I've never had any issues like this with my brother -- but it's his prerogative if this is the kind of marriage he wants. Do you have any suggestions for how I can talk to them about the way they're phrasing these things? I don't care whether they do things with us, I just don't like the implication that we are boundary-tramplers.

-- No, Thanks

They: [Overexplained rejection of invitation.]

You: "Hey, no explanation necessary, we take 'No' for an answer."


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