Dear John: My Wife Is Obsessed With Photos Of Her First Wedding
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Recently, my wife took a lot of old wedding pictures out of storage and displayed them in prominent spots in our home. Problem is, they are not of our wedding! We have been married over 25 years, but before that, she was married briefly to a guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since we met. I asked her why she was taking these out all of a sudden and she said she likes how young and happy she looks in them. She will be the first to admit that she does not like what the years have done to her appearance (although she is a strikingly beautiful woman). Maybe I’m being petty, but I just do not like having these pictures around and have told her so, but she refuses to put them back into whatever box she took them out of. Am I being unreasonable here?
Not In The Picture
Dear Not In The Picture,
No, I don’t think you’re being unreasonable, but your wife isn’t the only one who’s being a bit insensitive here.
Your letter doesn’t say much about what your marriage is like, but it seems pretty clear that she is unhappy about something. Maybe she’s having problems aging gracefully; maybe she’s disappointed with how her life has turned out; maybe it’s something else altogether. But wistfully noting how “young and happy” she looks in those photos is telling, don’t you think? And it doesn’t matter that you think she’s “strikingly beautiful.” That’s not how she sees herself.
To get back to your question, yes, I think your wife should put her old wedding pictures back wherever they were. But that will solve nothing if she doesn’t address the underlying issues that caused her to take them out in the first place.
My fiancé and I are getting married in a little under a year. We are both ardent lovers of the planet and try to live simply and with as little consumption of resources as possible. We both come from big, traditional families who don’t put too much thought into these things, though. For our wedding, we don’t want them to give us a lot of gifts we don’t need or want – instead, we want to use this as an opportunity to explain our values to them and maybe, ideally, get one or two of them to consider their own patterns of consumption and relationship to the planet. We want to explicitly state that we don’t want any gifts but instead would like people to make a contribution to an organization we support that deals with issues of sustainable use of resources. Reaction to this idea has been mixed at best. We would like your opinion. Thanks.
Don’t Need Much
Dear Don’t Need Much,
If you want to discourage people from giving you gifts you neither need nor want, I think you should simply (pardon the pun) tell them that their friendship and good wishes are gifts enough and leave it at that. Your motives seem beyond reproach, but to be completely honest, it strikes me as slightly unseemly to request that your guests make a contribution to an organization they may or may not support in order to enlighten them. As you and your husband embark on your life together, the best way you can share your passion for living simply is to do so by example.
My four-year-old daughter recently learned that the parents of one of her friends are getting divorced. She asked a lot of questions, which my husband and I explained as best we could, and she seemed to accept our answers. But now she seems quite frightened by the idea that we’ll get divorced, too. She came into our room in the middle of the night last week to make sure we were both still there, and a couple of days ago she started crying when told her father was going away on a business trip because she feared, “Now he’ll never come back.” I’m beginning to wonder if this is something that she will need professional help to get through. Thoughts?
Dear Worried Mom,
I think that right now, she just needs some time to process something she never realized: she lives with a mom and a dad who don’t have to stay together if they don’t want to. In a way, kids have vivid imaginations, but in another way, they have no imagination at all. They have to learn there’s such a thing as monsters before they’re afraid of the dark. And your little girl had to learn there’s such a thing as parents not living together before it became something she feared. Prior to being forced to think about it, the idea that you or Dad might not come home probably never even occurred to her. Now that it has, it has turned her predictable little world upside down. She needs reassurance about something that had been as reliable as the sunrise. Just give her the reassurance she needs without making a big deal about it and I think this will quickly pass. If it doesn’t, though, her pediatrician would be a good place to turn for guidance.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at email@example.com. He's away from the advice desk this week, so he's chosen some of his favorite letters from previous columns to share.
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