Carolyn Hax: his bilingual wife will not agree to speak English with friends

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Hello Carolyn: I got married for the second time a little over a year ago. My second wife was born in China and has lived in the United States for about six years. Before our wedding, everything seemed great. Now a number of problems are beginning to reveal themselves.

Her main language is Chinese, but she also speaks very good English. When we are alone, she speaks to me in English, but whenever her 22-year-old daughter, who speaks very good English, or friends are around, she speaks almost exclusively in Chinese. Friends also speak both languages. She makes no effort to include me in conversations, and when I bring it up she tells me it’s a personal discussion and I don’t need to know.

My mother came recently. My mother felt that this behavior was rude and I agree. Mom even politely said something, but she was basically ignored. What do I do?

— A stranger in my own house

A stranger in my own house: You take it or leave it.

If you want sympathy, then I have it. (Two bilingual husbands!)

If you want validation, I have that too, mostly: I think you ask a lot of him to switch exclusively to a second language with a girl – too deep a bond – and if there’s a friend who gathers in your kitchen, you’re not actively part of, and you trust your wife not to put you down, so be glad they’re talking comfortably. These exceptions aside, however, I agree that regularly having conversations that exclude others in the home/marriage is distant and rude. (If you don’t trust him, yuck.)

However, you discussed it. You made your case to be included. She is impassive.

This excludes certain options. A woman who agrees with you, apologizes and invites you into her conversations? No. A woman who disagrees but for the sake of harmony goes the extra mile to speak English around you? No. A marriage that will not suffer from a showdown? I haven’t seen this unicorn yet.

In my opinion, here is what you have left: 1. Embrace the marriage you have, where you accept a good deal of separation between your times together. You should want to, of course, but many couples thrive under these conditions, especially remarriages. 2. Unplug the plug. Sometimes you come out with a facade, marry the truth and divorce your mistake.

It’s what you have in the aisle, take it or leave it. But also consider this option in the aisle of self-transcendence:

3. Learn to speak its language.

If you think it’s up to her to do all the extra work to communicate with you and make you feel welcome, then I might just take my sympathy and go home.

Dear Caroline: How can you “politely” tell people who make sarcastic comments about changing jobs that you don’t value their opinions? I’ve had a tough few years in my career and I find that some people are very judgmental about my situation without knowing the reasons for the changes. I also don’t think I owe anyone an explanation of my situation.

Job change: “New joke, please. I’m tired.” A calm line drawn straight to the point is a gift, even when it’s some variation of “Close your pie-hole”. That’s because any person of good faith will want to know that c is a sensitive point, in order to be able to leave it alone.

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