Dear Annie: My wife and I have been happily married for eight years and were blessed with healthy triplets four years ago. My problem is that every year, my wife’s generous employer takes the entire staff on an incredible trip. I’m talking Napa, Europe, etc.
It’s wonderful of him and wonderful for the employees. However, spouses are not included in the invitation. I would gladly pay my own way, and we would then be able to experience these trips together. Instead, I stay home, working my full-time job and taking care of our children.
I feel left out of being able to enjoy this with my wife, as well as resentful of my time at home without her. Of course, I want her to go and am happy for her, but on the other hand, I am having a hard time talking to her about it, and it is difficult to be supportive of her anticipation of the upcoming trip. Do you have any advice on how to handle this or even deal with my conflicting emotions? — Homebound
Dear Homebound: I appreciate that you’re worried about looking selfish and sullen, but you’re being pretty reasonable, considering the circumstances. I don’t think anyone would blame you for feeling overwhelmed by caring for triplets on your own and working a full-time job.
So communicate. Let your wife know how these trips make you feel and that you’re not trying to send her on a guilt trip; you just want to avoid resentment. From there, you two can find a solution that works for both of you, such as arranging for a reliable sitter to help out while she’s gone or planning a vacation for just the two of you soon.
Dear Annie: I was impressed by “Peacemaker in Pittsburgh,” the writer who still has friends on all sides of the political spectrum, as many have become too polarized to be friendly anymore. He wrote about having trouble with these friends’ continual efforts to persuade everybody to come around to their points of view, dragging down social occasions. I think he has an opportunity to change the tone of these conversations, maintain the friendships and set a positive example. We can all do this: Listen. Ask individuals why they think a certain way (how their personal values led to their viewpoints). Ask them about when certain beliefs first started for them. Give them a chance to talk. Make sure they’re done before you start. Don’t interrupt them, and ask others not to interrupt or give support. Try saying, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.” Ask about their goals and hopes, as there are likely to be some you share. Then explain your own frustration, too. If you’ve heard something that seems misguided, try saying, “Hmm, that’s not been my experience.” Then offer an account of what values and experiences caused you to form a different opinion. I’ve been helped by Essential Partners’ guide titled “Reaching across the divide” (available at http://whatisessential.org). — Vermont Grandma
Dear Vermont Grandma: Thank you for the helpful suggestions. I’m sure many people could use that guide. I look forward to hearing from readers who try incorporating those tips into their conversations.
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