Dear Amy: I’ve included a family Christmas letter along with my Christmas cards for over 30 years now. This is fun, and it is something I like to do.
My husband and I are divorcing this year after over 40 years of marriage.
Should I even briefly mention this in my letter?
Christmas is a time of hope and celebration.
Many people who receive my cards only hear from me once a year, so I honestly don’t know if I should address this.
Thank you for your insight.
Dear Sad News: Yes, Christmas is a time of hope and celebration, but Christmas letters are also often chronicles of a family’s transitions and passages.
There is no one way to compose one of these annual holiday letters, but my favorites are those that include a photo or two, as well as a brief rundown of the family’s year, including births, deaths, graduations, job transitions, and acknowledgments of challenges, as well as joyful times.
If you choose to disclose the breakup of your very long marriage in this letter, you might expect to hear back from some of these once-a-year correspondents, expressing their interest or concern. Do you want to hear from them? And will you be disappointed if you don’t?
If you do choose to include this item, you might write something like: “Some sad news here, as Jim and I are divorcing after four decades of marriage. This is a bittersweet time for our family, but we are moving forward with as much grace as possible.”
Dear Amy: I am shocked and hurt by comments my brother-in-law made to me during the recent otherwise wonderful trip my husband and I took with him and my sister.
He is the most physically healthy of all of us, but perhaps he is losing his filters as we aging people sometimes do.
We live in separate states and have traveled extensively as couples over the last 15 years — usually twice a year. Both couples have been married for 50 years.
We have a great time together. I thought we always enjoyed each other’s company. My sister and I are best friends.
At the end of our most recent trip (outside of others’ hearing) my brother-in-law insisted that I had married the wrong person.
I was shocked, denied this, but was too taken aback to ask why he thought this.
I love my husband. He is a wonderful, loving, kind and generous man.
He would be extremely hurt by this comment, since he believes that the two men have developed a close friendship over more than 50 years.
I don’t know what to say to my husband and sister.
I have been obsessing, perhaps grieving, over this comment.
I wonder if we should stop traveling together, though this would be very painful for at least three of us.
What do you think about this? What should I say or do?
Saddened and Hurt
Dear Saddened: The first thing you should do is examine why this comment has caused you to grieve so deeply.
My perspective is that many very happily married people are hitched to partners whom others would deem “wrong.”
Confronted with this unsolicited opinion after 50 years of happy marriage might inspire you more toward laughter than grief.
Your brother-in-law is wrong, and you took the opportunity in the moment to tell him so. Good for you!
You have a burning desire to learn why he said this, but ask yourself: What good would it do to hear a recitation of your husband’s unsuitability?
Keep in mind, too, that this comment does not mean that your brother-in-law doesn’t like your husband; just that in his (flawed) and possibly fleeting opinion, you should have married someone else.
I think you should chalk this comment up to an elder person’s lowered filter. (Is it possible that he is carrying a torch for you?)
Taking into account all of the variables, if you still feel compelled to ask about this, do so (not through your sister). There is some likelihood that he will either deny or will not remember having made the comment that has caused you so much angst.
Dear Amy: Oh, that question from “Unsure Mom” really brought back some unpleasant memories for me. Like Unsure, my mother often told me how much “better” I would look wearing makeup.
I know she meant to be encouraging; unfortunately, her words had the opposite effect.
Dear Free: I hope this sort of pressure is a thing of the past.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.