Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Now that it feels like COVID-19 is kind of behind us, my husband is making all kinds of plans for us to reconnect this summer with his family. We haven’t really seen them this past year. They live mostly out of state. Several of his family members are coming up to visit and spending time here.
I do love my husband’s family — they’re amazing people, very loyal and loving to each other. But when my husband gets together with his brothers, it’s like he becomes another person. We don’t drink much alcohol but when he hangs out with them, he just guzzles beer and he even smokes cigarettes. The only saving grace has been these episodes would last just a day or two, but now his brothers plan to come up for an extended time.
In the past, I haven’t made a big deal about this, but because they are staying with us for so many days, I’m just really concerned about how this is going to play out. I brought it up the other day and he got really defensive and said I don’t understand because I don’t have siblings, and told me not to ruin his good time after he’s been so well-behaved this past year.
I’m just imagining how this will play out and am envisioning my house feeling like a fraternity for days on end and I’m dreading that. What can I do?
COVID-19 was a rough time for us all and now there definitely is this sense of, “OK, I followed the rules and made it through, and I deserve a reward.” For me, that reward was a pedicure at OMG Nails, a massage at Allure, brunch at Ginger and a crisp bottle of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc. For your husband, it’s a boys-night-out party with his actual bros, only it might last a week or so.
And you know what? As annoying as I’m sure it is when he’s wasty-face and chain-smoking, he generally sounds like a good guy. He did follow the COVID rules. He definitely missed his family during this past long year. And who’s really getting hurt in the long run if he’s mostly safely partying with his favorite family members for a few days on end? No one! You’re anticipating being annoyed, and that’s self aware to realize your likely reaction. But really, your choice here is to join in — which seems unlikely — or give them space to do their thing.
After all, you deserve a reward too. Why not book yourself a couple nights at a hotel while they’re here — preferably one with a spa and great food? Or, jump on VRBO or Airbnb and book them a sweet surprise cabin someplace where they can guzzle beers to their hearts’ content and you can enjoy the solitude of your home?
My point: Your husband’s behavior isn’t chronic or dangerous. It’s an occasional and isolated episode that is his escape from regular life and he’s earned it. So instead of working against him, shaming him or challenging him, figure out how you can both be happy.
Sorry to be Buzz Killington, but COVID isn’t over. Alaska had at least 12 COVID deaths in May; 17 Alaskans are currently hospitalized with COVID; and 52% of Alaskans age 12 and older have received one vaccine dose and 46% are fully vaccinated. So, it’s likely that nearly half the people around you at an Alaska restaurant/bar/concert/wedding/nail salon aren’t vaccinated. The only thing that’s “over” are certain COVID rules, regulations and restrictions.
As far as personal choices and facing COVID risks, I don’t think anything’s changed over the past year-plus of this pandemic: It all boils down to your comfort level and risk tolerance. A year ago, going to the grocery store or hugging an old friend outside my bubble felt like the first mission to Mars and the first encounter with a Martian. Today, giving hugs, getting groceries, and hooting and hollering across a tavern table or a backyard bonfire with long-lost friends and family feels pretty safe and really, really good.
Are we safer, healthier, more informed and less paranoid about COVID-19 today? The 135,000 people who attended the Indy 500 last weekend didn’t seem too concerned. Your husband and I feel confident in how we’re spending our time, too.
But this is your life and your shared home, and it’s your choice on how you proceed as your husband and his family and friends cannonball back into normalcy. If this issue is truly about your COVID concern, go with your gut and stick to your guns. But if this is really about your husband being hungover and stinking like cigarettes once or twice a month, you shouldn’t be surprised or upset: He’s the same guy you chose to marry and stick by in sickness and health. Get over it or start booking a bunch of Airbnbs.