Dear Annie: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, although we’ve been apart a great deal of that time due to college and work. Now that we are able to relocate together, my boyfriend expects me to participate more with his family, especially over the Christmas holidays.
All of his family members are practicing Christians. I am a pagan. I don’t mind spending time with them, but I do not pray before I eat, I don’t attend any type of church, nor do I celebrate these holidays in any way, including buying or receiving presents. All of this celebration makes me uncomfortable, so I stay away.
My boyfriend insists that I’m being selfish and should “deal with it.” But he disregards all of the celebrations that come with my spirituality. I have offered to go to his family’s celebrations as long as I don’t need to go to church or exchange gifts. But he still gives me a hard time about it.
I’m perfectly happy staying home while he enjoys these special holiday times, but he says I’m being difficult, and the argument loops around again. How do I get him to accept that not everyone sees life the way his family does?
— Different Gods
Dear Different: Your compromise — to spend holidays with his family as long as you don’t need to attend church or exchange gifts — is reasonable. However, your boyfriend wants you to conform to his family’s idea of celebration, either because he doesn’t respect your beliefs or, more likely, because he wants to avoid his family’s disapproval.
Please don’t assume these religious differences are only relevant at Christmas. If you decide to have children together, this problem will get ugly quickly. In any relationship, religious differences can be a major stumbling block; not to mention, your boyfriend does not defend you to his parents. If these conflicts aren’t resolved in a mutually agreeable way, the relationship is likely to flounder.
Dear Annie: My husband and his first wife were married for 20 years. They had no children, and she cheated on him multiple times. She was not particularly engaged with his family while they were married, but since he married me, she has worked hard to ingratiate herself — attending weddings and other family events.
They have been divorced for 16 years, and we have been married for 12. Yet she continues to use his last name rather than revert back to her family name. What is your opinion of this practice?
— I’m His Only Mrs.
Dear Only: Our opinion is that you should ignore it. This has been her name for 36 years, and changing it is not only a major inconvenience, but it’s also how she is known by those around her. Whatever name she uses does not threaten your position or status. Really. And if your husband’s family chooses to invite a woman they have known for 36 years to major family events, please do your best to tolerate her presence. The more gracious you are the classier you appear.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Confused in Florida,” who became a full-time caregiver for his mother after she had a stroke. His brothers are suspicious that he is taking advantage of her financially.
My mother is in a similar situation. I live across the country and am kept informed by weekly updates from my siblings. I recently spent three weeks with Mom. My gratitude for my siblings has multiplied, as I now have a much better idea of how much my mother needs and how unrelenting her requests are. Kudos to “Confused,” who has chosen to offer loving live-in support for his mother. While there are many blessings that come from spending time with Mom, it is an exhausting 24/7 responsibility.
— Child of a Mother in Need
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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