Tom and Mary have been dating for almost two years.
Tom invited Mary to go on a cruise.
Tom asked his mother, Julia, if she would be available to babysit his dog.
Julia agreed and then told her daughter, Tom’s sister, Ann, about the cruise.
Ann had been planning to give Mom a cruise for Christmas, so booked herself and Mom on the same cruise.
When Tom told Mary, Mary was disappointed. Mary had been looking forward to a romantic cruise, and now Mom and sister were coming along.
Mary was at dinner with Julia and Ann.
Ann asked Mary, “Are you excited about the cruise?”
Mary answered calmly, “It will be fun,” her disappointment evidenced in her tone.
Ann asked, “Why do you say it like that?”
Mary answered, “Well, originally I had thought I was going on a romantic cruise. Now it will be a family excursion. But the more I’ve thought about it I think it will be fun for us all to be together.”
Ann was silent. Mary recognized that she had said the wrong thing and tried, unsuccessfully, to smooth it over.
Ann, ultimately, rescheduled the cruise for her and her mother for another time, costing about $1,000 more.
The final result is that Ann and Julia aren’t speaking to Mary.
Tom is hurt and betrayed by Mary’s treatment of his mother and sister.
And Tom and Mary’s relationship is nearly destroyed.
What, if anything, can be done to resolve this situation?
Should Mary pay the $1,000 expense that Ann incurred?
What apologies are needed? — From Cruise to Crisis
Mary absolutely should NOT pay or offer to pay an expense that Ann incurred, and neither should she offer an apology. The apologies owed here are all owed to Mary, and they should come from Ann, Tom, and Julia, in that order. Ann was entirely out of line booking tickets for the same cruise as Mary and Tom without so much as mentioning it to them first to gauge their reaction. They had a romantic cruise planned — one that I’m sure wasn’t cheap — and she completely changed the nature of their vacation by inviting herself and her mother along without even asking first. Not only that, but Julia had already agreed to watch Tom’s dog so Tom also had to find a new dog-sitter, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Tom owes Mary an apology for being a dick to her and accusing HER of mistreating his sister and mother when, in fact, it is they who have mistreated Mary. That this incident has nearly destroyed Mary’s and Tom’s relationship should come as a HUGE warning sign to Mary as to how things could go in the future should she and Tom get more serious and perhaps marry one day. Mary needs to make very clear that this kind of treatment and insensitivity and, frankly, lack of understanding and compassion, will not be tolerated. Mary was understandably disappointed that her romantic vacation suddenly turned into a family excursion — something TOM should have immediately addressed with his clueless sister and, at the very least, should have been apologetic for on behalf of his family, rather than accusatory when Mary expressed some of the disappointment — in a very diplomatic way —¸that the nature of her vacation had changed without so much as an acknowledgment from anyone. If Tom had been thinking, HE should have talked with Ann about changing the dates of her cruise with her mother, explaining how he and Mary were looking forward to some quality time together and hadn’t planned on sharing that time with anyone else. That way, if anyone was going to be irate at anyone else, TOM would be the one taking the blame, not Mary. As it is, Tom, by agreeing with his sister and mother, has thrown poor Mary under the bus.
And then there’s Julia. She may seem blameless or mostly blameless, but she’s the one who raised Tom and Ann, two people who, from this letter anyway, seem spoiled, self-centered, and lacking in empathy. But her most recent mistake was joining Ann in giving the silent treatment to Mary. Mary! Who did nothing but express some understandable disappointment that her boyfriend’s family was suddenly crashing her romantic vacation. Good for her for trying to establish some boundaries and letting them know that these kinds of antics aren’t something she would welcome in the future. Unfortunately — or fortunately, as the case may be — it sounds like there might not BE much of a future here if this incident is any indication of Tom’s commitment to Mary. But maybe a romantic cruise for just the two of them will be the thing to turn it around. And maybe if Ann and Julia see this column from an outsider’s perspective, they can appreciate Mary’s side a bit better and see where they were wrong and how they can be better prospective family members in the future.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].