Dear Annie: My husband and I have lived together for more than 30 years, and we decided to get married about 15 years ago. We live in a different state than his family and don’t see them often. We do exchange cards, holiday gifts, calls, etc. Several women in his family (specifically, his sister and her adult daughter) will not address me in writing by my name. I kept my birth name when I married and they know that, but anything they send to us either refers to “John and Mary Smith” (his last name) or “The Smiths.”
My husband has reminded them of my name, and I have included a little note on some holiday cards in the past to remind them as well.
I can only assume that they disagree with my decision to keep my own name, and it continues to upset me. It feels disrespectful, to say the least. My husband thinks it’s no big deal. Is he right? Is it worth me reaching out directly to each of them to ask why they are doing this when I otherwise don’t have a lot of contact with them, or should I just let it go and try not to let it bother me? – Ms. Addressed
Dear Ms. Addressed: Write this off as ignorance. Sure, there’s a chance they’re deliberately disrespecting your choice to keep your name – but you’d only be assuming that. Recall that old saying about what happens when you assume: The language is a shade too colorful for a family paper, but the gist is not to do it.
Truly, it costs you nothing to generously give others the benefit of the doubt, even to those who haven’t earned it. So presume innocence, and ask your husband to remind them again of your last name. If he resists because “it isn’t a big deal,” tell him that it’s important to you. Not every matter needs to be cataclysmic to be worthy of addressing.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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