Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: My fiancée and I have been together for two years and are getting married in June. Although we agree on most things, there’s one source conflict that has been constant throughout our relationship—her parent’s financial dependence on her. My future in-laws do not work, my father-in-law can’t because of a disability, but my mother-in-law just elects not to. My wife gives them almost half of her take home pay every month.

I’ve told her that when we get married this has to stop. I want to build a life for ourselves and our future family and we can’t do that when she’s supporting her parents. She refuses to stop giving them money and says she can’t just “cut them off.” I’m afraid this issue will eventually ruin our relationship. How do I help her cut the financial cord?

Financially Frustrated Fiancé

Dear Financially: People often say you don’t just marry the woman (or man) you marry the family. You’re learning first-hand the truth of this adage. You mention that this has been a constant source of conflict between you two, so you can’t realistically think things will change the moment you say “I do.”

As your fiancée has noted, she isn’t going to cut her parents off completely. However, since she is electing to start a new life and family with you, she needs to make you, not her parents her number one priority. As a result, she needs to compromise and make changes and you need to back down from your rigid demand.

Try to reach a compromise that allows her to help her parents to a degree and simultaneously allows you two to build a strong financial foundation—together.  Maybe she can setup a separate bank account that she uses to help support her parents. This way, you won’t feel like your money is going to support them, which can lead to resentment. Then instead of funneling 50% of her take home pay into that account, she cuts down to 25% or less. The rest of her money then goes toward building your life together.

Additionally (and this may be the hardest part), she is going to need to set new boundaries with her parents. Perhaps she can help her mom get a part-time job and look into ways her Dad can bring home additional cash (If she has siblings they need to be chipping in too, this burden can’t rest entirely on her shoulders). She is going to have to be firm and let her parents know that you are her top priority. If she can’t (or refuses to) do that then you may want to think twice before walking down the aisle.

Dear Sylvia: My close friend of 15-years and I have recently drifted apart since we are at different stages in our lives. After not seeing each other for several months, we finally planned a lunch date. When I was on my way to meet her, she texted me and told me that one of her friends, who I had never met and that she sees daily, would be joining us.

Lunch was fine and we had a good time, but I was hurt that she made plans for her friend to join without asking me.  Plus, her presence made it so my friend and I couldn’t connect the way we would have had it just been the two of us. The debacle has made me not want to make any future plans with her.  Did she feel like she had to bring a buffer because she feels distance between us too?  Should I say something to her or just let it go?  Should I not be bothered by this?

Ruined Reunion

Dear Reunion: Although people often say “the more the merrier,” in this case that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You were looking forward to a reunion with your friend and she ruined it by bringing a third wheel. I can understand your hurt, but it’s possible there was no ill-will behind the extra invite. In fact, maybe she wanted her friend to meet one of her oldest and dearest pals. On the other hand, like you said, she may have felt awkward about the lunch given the distance that has grown between you.

Regardless,  a 15-year friendship is no small feat, and although her behavior makes you want to push her away, I think you owe it to yourself and your friendship to have a conversation not just about the lunch, but about your relationship. Set aside a time to talk either in person or over the phone (don’t do email!). Start by letting your friend know how much you value her and her friendship, but feel that you’ve grown apart recently. Then tell her how much you were looking forward to catching up and were hurt and disappointed when she brought her friend along. Next, let her speak. It’s important to get her perspective on the situation. She may feel the same way and be grateful for the opportunity to talk about things and reignite your friendship, or she may have no idea that she hurt you and quickly apologize. But if you don’t talk to her, you’ll never know and resentment and negativity will fester.

Friendships ebb and flow. Sometimes life circumstances bring us closer and others push us apart. One reason we may distance ourselves is because we don’t know what our role is in our friend’s new life. By talking, you can reaffirm your commitment to your friendship and renegotiate your ongoing roles in one another’s lives. Remember, sometimes the most difficult conversations to have are the most important ones.

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: My husband and I have been married for a year. We are both forty-four and this is our first marriage. All my life I’ve wanted to be a mom and was so happy to finally make my dream come true when I met my husband. Knowing it would be difficult, given my age, we began trying to conceive before the wedding. After having no luck for several months, we turned to IVF. We’ve gone through four cycles and haven’t had any success.

Due to the financial, physical, and emotional stress this process has put us through my husband doesn’t want to try anymore. My doctor suggested we consider pursuing other options, like using a donor egg or adoption. Neither of these possibilities are appealing to me. Should I end my marriage and pursue parenthood on my own or listen to my husband and doctor?

Yearning for Mommyhood

Dear Yearning: As someone who has struggled with fertility issues, I can appreciate and relate to your heartache. Realizing that a long held dream may not come to fruition is devastatingly  heartbreaking. With that said, I encourage you to seriously consider your husband’s and doctor’s point of view for your own physical and emotional wellbeing, and your marriage’s wellbeing. As I’m sure you know, the chances of having a successful pregnancy and live-birth at your age are extremely low. Additionally, as you get older, the chance of a positive outcome continues to decrease, but the emotional, financial, and relational turmoil will continue to increase.

There are two issues in your question that stand out to me. Addressing these, with assistance, may help you figure out what direction you should take.  First, I can hear and almost feel your strong desire to be a mother. Second, it is clear that your identity and life-script is highly linked to fulfilling this dream. I fully understand your strong desire to be a mother. However, pregnancy (and being the biological mother of your child) is just one of the many ways you can become a mom. As your doctor noted, a donor egg could be a viable option for you and your husband. I understand that there are questions and concerns that go along with this and I encourage you to talk to your doctor more fully about this option.

Additionally, adoption and foster parenting are options as well. You can also be a “mother” in other ways by volunteering, or taking an active role in the lives of friends and family members’ children. If these are not acceptable options to you, then it may be time to tackle the second issue—redefining your identity and life path.

When we’re young, we often create a life-script that outlines the path we hope our life will take. More often than not, however, our dreams and reality don’t converge (for better or worse). That presents us with a challenge—do we redefine who we are, or do we continue to try to fit a round peg into a square hole? Although it may be extremely difficult, emotionally and psychologically, it may be time to mourn the life you thought you’d have and redefine who you are and develop a new life script, with your husband, that doesn’t include being parents.

This is a complex and difficult process and I encourage you and your husband to seek out a therapist who will help you both negotiate this change in direction. This is challenge not only for you, but your marriage. I urge you to not abandon your marriage in pursuit of this dream, but instead, use this as an opportunity to enhance your relationship and build a dream life for the two of you. It may not be the one you originally envisioned, but I guarantee you, you can still have your happily ever after.

Dear Sylvia: I have developed a crush on my sister-in-law. I think she may have feelings for me too. She seems to go out of her way to talk to me and is very affectionate. Should I pursue my feelings or not ruffle the family feathers?

Smitten Brother-in-law

Dear Smitten: Although you may be hoping for an ending like the one in the movie, The Family Stone, when brothers happily swap love-interests, your situation will not end that way. This is your sister-in-law. Not only is she family, but she’s also YOUR BROTHER’S wife.

It seems that you may be misinterpreting her behavior. She’s likely trying to develop a family relationship with you by talking and being demonstrative with her feelings. Even if she did have feelings for you, she’s a married woman, to one of your family members no less.

So, put any romantic thoughts out of your head and work on establishing a friendship with her. If that proves too much, distance yourself until the feelings subside.

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: For several weeks, my wife had been distant. When I finally got her to admit what was wrong, she told me I needed to be more “romantic.” Even though I think I’m a thoughtful guy, it apparently isn’t enough. The next day I brought her flowers, which made her mad. She said I only did that because she told me to. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. How do I fulfill my wife’s needs without her thinking it’s a chore?

–Romantic Romeo

Dear Romeo: You’re wife put you in a double-bind. She asked you to be romantic, but then chastised you when you were. Although it’s frustrating, don’t let it deter you. In fact, use it as motivation to be romantic more frequently and in unexpected ways. If you mix it up a bit, she won’t feel that the behavior is forced and you’ll enjoy being romantic because you want to, not because you have to.

However, if you’re unsure about what your wife thinks is “romantic” find out how she defines romance. Does she want a spontaneous date planned or would she be content with you bringing her coffee in bed in the morning? If you don’t know what she wants, all of your efforts will be for naught.

If she gripes that you “should know what she wants” tell her that the belief that partners should read each other’s minds is one of the biggest (and most dangerous) relationship myths. Relationships are built on communication and we have to tell our partners what our needs are if we ever want them met. So, figure out what she wants and get going Casanova.

And don’t forget, romance doesn’t mean extravagance; love is built on the little things, not grand gestures. Often, little gestures, like holding her hand while watching a movie or saying you look beautiful, have the biggest impact.

Dear Sylvia: I’m six months pregnant with my first baby. Since I’ve told my best-friend about the baby she’s completely ditched me. I feel that she doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore because I can’t go to the bars and party with her. Anytime we do talk, she doesn’t even ask me about the baby. Should I cut my losses and focus my energy on my growing family instead of my dwindling friendship?

Forgotten Friend

Dear Forgotten: I’m sorry your friend is being a flake when you need her support and encouragement most. Friendships are like books filled with lots of pages and chapters. Sometimes you’re on the same page, while other times you’re in different chapters.  Maybe your friend is overwhelmed and freaked out about how your relationship is going to change as a result of your impending mommy-hood. Or, maybe your pregnancy makes her question whether or not she wants to become a mom. Or, maybe she feels that you don’t want to hang out with her in non-party situations.

The only way to really know what’s going on is to talk to her. Bring up your concerns in a non-accusatory way. Ask her if anything is bothering her because you’ve noticed she seems a bit distance since you’ve announced your pregnancy. If she’s a true friend, you’ll be able to have a conversation about what’s bothering both of you.

But, if you find out that she doesn’t want to deal with anything too deep and prefers partying to having a real friendship, drop the dead weight, you’ve got more important things on the horizon!

Dear Sylvia: My husband recently admitted to a one-night stand while on a business trip. We’ve been married for 8 years and I never once questioned our relationship. We have three children together and many memories. He says this is the only time this has happened. I’m deeply hurt and betrayed. Should I try to save our marriage or save myself and kids from future pain and call it quits?

Stunned Spouse

Dear Stunned: I am so sorry for the hurt and betrayal you’re experiencing. Trust is the basis of all relationships and being betrayed, especially through infidelity, not only rocks but ruins relationships. With that said, although it seems impossible now, you can come back from this if you both want to.

As you noted, you’ve been together for a long time and have invested a lot into this marriage. Throwing it all away for a one-time lapse in judgment may be a hasty decision. However, only you can decide if you stay or if you go. You know your husband best and only you know if this is something you and your relationship can overcome.

If you do decide to give your marriage a second chance, I believe that going to couples and individual counseling is a must. Both you and your husband are experiencing an array of emotions and a trained therapist will help you sift through them all and provide you with the skills needed to rebuild the trust in your relationship.

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: My parents-in-law recently helped me and my husband purchase a new home. At the time, they told us the money was a gift. Since we’ve moved they act as if they partly own our home because they helped financially. They question our decorating decisions, get upset if we don’t inform them of any improvement project, and feel that they can barge into our house without any notice. I’d rather still be living in our tiny apartment than deal with my meddlesome in-laws. My husband doesn’t know what to say because he feels indebted to them. How do we get our unwelcomed “houseguests” to pack their bags?

Had-It Homeowner

Dear Had It: First, congratulations on your new home! However, I’m sorry about your parents-in-law’s behavior. As you noted, they gave you a gift. Therefore, they should not be throwing their financial help in your face or expect to be involved in your homeowner decisions. When you give someone a scarf do you expect to have control over when and how she’ll wear it, N.O.

I can understand your husband feeling a bit timid to speak to his parents, but he must. You all can sit down for the discussion, but he needs to do the talking. He needs to tell his parents that you are both very grateful for the assistance, but, as they said, it was a gift and a gift means no strings attached. He needs to let them know that you two are not going to run every decision by them and you both would appreciate them keeping their opinions to themselves and calling before they visit.

If that doesn’t work, then I suggest that you and your husband develop a plan to pay back your in-laws. It may take some time and may be a financial burden you weren’t anticipating, but if it’s the only way to get back your sanity and independence, it’s worth it. Oh, and don’t forget to change your locks!

Dear Sylvia: Some situations have occurred between me and my boyfriend that have led to him getting in trouble with law. I understand and acknowledge my mistakes, but he is blaming me for everything and not taking any responsibility for his actions. I’m wondering if it’s even worth trying to make this relationship work if he’s just going to pin it all on me.

Drained Girlfriend

Dear Drained: Any relationship trouble that ends with police involvement is never good news. In addition to the trouble with the law, you mention that your boyfriend pins all the blame on you; but as you aptly note, it takes two to tango.

I applaud you for acknowledging your role in this drama. Now I encourage you to take that knowledge and use it to move forward in a new, positive direction. It’s time to end the relationship with your boyfriend and begin a relationship with yourself. Take some time to address any issues you may be dealing with, find out what you like/want out of a relationship, and become confident in your self-worth that you don’t need to waste your time in a relationship that involves the law.

Dear Sylvia: I have a young co-worker (23 years-old) who is constantly bragging out the restaurants she eats at, the designer bags and clothes she wears, and all the people she dates. I’m not envious because I have and do nice things too, I just don’t broadcast it. Other co-workers are getting annoyed by her behavior too. Should I say something to her so she doesn’t continue putting her designer clad foot in her mouth?

Over-It Coworker

Dear Over It: Your dilemma reminds me of that Real Housewives of Beverly Hills “character” who constantly talked about how much all of her expensive stuff cost. $25,000 sunglasses?! Come on! Your co-worker, like that RHOBV cast member, seems to be a bit immature. But, think back to when you were in your early twenties; you probably did and said some regrettable things, too.

Also, this may be your co-workers first “real” job and the first time she’s been able to afford these types of luxuries. She may be so excited she can’t keep her mouth shut, or this may be her way of telling herself and others, “I’ve made it.” Although it’s annoying to hear her constant, superficial updates, chalk it up to her being a young baller and cut her some slack. She’ll outgrow this stage, eventually. If not, then layer on your designer dudes and show her how it’s done!

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q&A

Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: I’m in my early 40’s and finally met the man of my dreams. Unlike my ex-husband, my fiancé and I see eye-to-eye on just about every issue and for the first time in my life, I truly know what love is. However, there is one huge obstacle in our relationship: his son. His son is adopted and has significant emotional and behavioral issues (both his adoptive and birth mother are no longer in the picture).

It is getting harder and harder to cope with his son’s erratic and outrageous behavior. I find myself making excuses to not hang out with my fiancé and his son, and, unfortunately, losing my patience with both of them. I truly love my fiancé, but am unsure if I’m ready to handle another difficult child (my ex had three children, one of which was bi-polar) who isn’t mine. Should I stick it out or cut my losses now before it becomes even harder to get out?

Hesitant Stepmom

 Dear Hesitant: People often say you don’t just marry the man you marry his family, and this is particularly true when it comes to children. If you don’t feel ready to handle your fiancé’s son, then it’s best to cut your losses now. Don’t continue to string your fiancé and his son along.

However, before you break things off consider the fact that no relationship or child is perfect. Your fiancé and his son are a package deal; to love one is to love them both (as best you can). Although having a child with behavioral and emotional issues is a challenge to your relationship, it can also be a great asset as you and your partner learn to work together as parents and your love and devotion can also be a great support not only to your fiancé, but his son as well.

If your fiancé is truly the love of your life then you owe it to yourself to work on this relationship. I strongly recommend going to couples and family counseling. A trained therapist will provide you all with tools to manage your relationships and tackle your issues together, as a team—as a family.

Dear Sylvia:  I am going to my fiancé’s house for Christmas. This is the first time I’m seeing his mom since we got engaged and I only her twice before. I don’t know what to call my future mother-in-law when I see her. Should I call her “Mrs. Blank,” by her first name, or go out on a limb and call her Mom (although I’m not entirely comfortable with that!). My fiancé is no help on this issue and I’m terrified to screw up at my first “family” holiday!

Flustered Daughter-in-law

 Dear Flustered: In-law relationships are filled with uncertainty and figuring out to call one another is at the top of the list of questions. You could do what I did for months and just start talking to your mother-in-law and hope she knows that you’re talking to her. However, this becomes more complicated when more people start arriving for the family dinner!

There are a couple of ways you can handle this quandary. First, if your fiancé has siblings that are engaged or married, see what the other in-laws do and follow their lead. Second, you can let your mother-in-law set the tone. When you arrive, start formally by saying “Hi, Mrs. So-and-So” and see how she responds. If she says, “Oh, just call me Judy” then first-name basis it is! Or, if she says, “Oh, you can call me mom now” then mom it is, if you’re comfortable with it.

However, if you’re not comfortable with a familial address term, then have a quick chat with her when your alone and come up with an acceptable variation. Although this conversation may feel awkward at first, you’ll both benefit from reducing your uncertainty and being on the same page, which is crucial for starting your relationship off on the right foot!

 ~

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q&A

Dear Sylvia: My daughter- and son-in-law are a financial mess. They are in their mid-twenties, college educated, and gainfully employed; yet they live paycheck to paycheck, have immense credit card debt, and when they do come into some money they spend it on frivolous purchases rather than paying their bills. They recently asked me and my husband to co-sign on a car loan. Given their history of poor fiscal responsibility, my husband and I don’t feel comfortable with this request. How do we let them know we won’t be co-signing without damaging our relationship?

Perplexed Parents

Dear Perplexed: I applaud you and your husband for sticking to your guns and refusing to support your daughter- and son-in-law’s reckless financial behavior. Co-signing a car loan not only condones their hot mess of a financial situation, but could also negatively impact your credit score.

I think it’s important that you are upfront with them about your decision and the reasons why. Don’t hem and haw or pussyfoot around the topic. Explicitly outline what concerns you have about their financial situation. Also, explain to them how co-signing has consequences for your own financial standing, especially if they fall behind or fail to make payments (given their history, it’s a highly likely possibility).

Although you may be unwilling (rightfully so) to co-sign, you should be willing to help them get on track financially. Do not pay their bills or give them hand-outs, instead work with them either on your own or with a financial planner to set realistic financial goals and make a plan to achieve them.  They may be ticked now, but they’ll be grateful when they’re financially secure and don’t even need to ask for a co-signer!

Dear Sylvia: I am at my wit’s end with my close friend. Since we’ve been friends, it’s been a very one-sided friendship. She always has to be the center of attention and get her way.  This past year, for instance, everyone in our social circle turned 30. My friend threw herself an over-the- top, destination party, insisted that we all attend (although it cost an arm and a leg), and she made us wear themed- attire throughout the vacation. However, as the remainder of us celebrated our birthdays she made excuses for not attending parties, and when she did show up it was all about her. I know I can’t change her behavior, but I’d like to change how I respond to her. How can I stop being a doormat and start standing up for myself?

Backbone Needed

Dear Backbone: I admire that you recognize that you can’t change your friend, only the way you react to her. However, I question why you even want to remain friends with her? From the sound of it, she doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. In this case, it may be better to cut your losses and move on. Life is far too short and your time is too precious to waste it on a toxic relationship.

However, since you do seem to want to remain friends with your pal, there are several things you can do to attempt to right the ship. But, because there are too many tips to suggest here, I’ll dedicate next week’s column to having difficult discussions with friends and loved ones. Check back next Wednesday to learn how to stop being a doormat and start standing your ground!

Dear Sylvia: My good friend and I have opposing politic views. Usually, it’s not a problem, but he has been very vocal about his opinions this campaign season. I fundamentally cannot support his candidate and am shocked and disappointed that he supports his candidate’s beliefs and policies. I’m finding it difficult to remain friends with someone whose views are in such opposition to mine. Should I give our friendship four more years or vote him out now?

Undecided Friend

Dear Undecided: Although having different viewpoints can spur friendly debates and open our eyes to different viewpoints, it can be difficult when beliefs clash on a moral and/or ethical level. However, since you seem to have been friends with this person for some time and this never has been an issue before, I’d have an open discussion before you decide to impeach him. You may find that your beliefs aren’t really too different, or you may learn why your friend holds a particular opinion. However, if you find that you and your friend’s beliefs clash too deeply for your liking, you may need to renegotiate your friendship. But, if James Carville and Mary Matalin can make a marriage last for almost 20 years, I think you and your friend can reach across the aisle and make your friendship work.

 ~

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: A few weeks ago my wife’s best-friend passed away. They had been friends since high school and were like sisters. Since her passing, my wife has fallen into a deep depression. Nothing I do or say seems to help. How can I help her cope with this loss?

Clueless Spouse

Dear Clueless: First, let me commend you for recognizing the profound loss your wife is experiencing. Too often, people overlook the loss of a friend, but for many losing a friend is the equivalent to losing a family member.

It has only been a few weeks since her passing and your wife may just be beginning to feel the reality and permanence of her loss. The best thing you can do is be there for her. Do not try to “fix” the problem, simply help her cope however she needs to. For many women, feeling heard and perceiving that their partner is there to support them is very meaningful. Additionally, given that losing a friend isn’t often recognized as the profound event it is in larger society, your wife will be grateful that you understand the gravity of her loss.

To show her she has your full support, explicitly ask her how she is feeling about losing her friend and then listen to her response. When she talks, validate and legitimize her feelings by saying things like “I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you,” or “You were friends for a long time and it must hurt not having her here.” Also, don’t underestimate the power of a hug. If she just needs to cry, be a shoulder to lean on. Although it seems almost second nature, don’t say things like “It’s going to be okay” or “You have other friends.” Simply be there. Finally, encourage your wife to share stories about her best-friend and their friendship, this will allow her to celebrate her memory and stay connected to her friend.

However, if your wife does not show any signs of improvement in a few months, I would suggest speaking with a grief counselor who can provide her with the tools to navigate this difficult transition.

Dear Sylvia: Recently, I attended by sister-in-law’s baby shower. I traveled a few hundred miles to be there and I put a lot of thought, effort, and money into the gift I selected. A few weeks later a thank-you card arrived in the mail. When I opened it, it was a maternity picture of her with a generic, pre-printed thank you message. No personal message or mention of my travels or gift.  I was stunned and hurt. Should I say something to my sister-in-law or just chalk it up to “baby brain”?

Disgruntled Gift Giver

Dear Disgruntled: You’re preaching to the choir. I also hate these types of thank you cards, but I guess you can be grateful that you even received a thank you card and in a timely fashion, I might add. However, when people take time out of their schedule to attend an event or give a gift, I think the guest of honor can be bothered to write a few sentences of gratitude, “baby brain” or not.

Although you may be hurt, I wouldn’t rain on your sister-in-law’s parade. Instead, set an example by sending thoughtful notes when you’re on the receiving end. If that doesn’t get the message across, then follow her lead on the next gift giving occasion. A card with just a signature and a generic gift card would probably do the trick.

Dear Sylvia: I recently moved across the country for a job. My significant other stayed behind, for now, because she couldn’t find a job out here. Although we’ve only been apart for a few months, our relationship is starting to feel strained. What can we do to make sure that distance makes the heart grow fonder?

Long-distance Lover

Dear Lover: Ah, the long distance relationship—a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, a physical separation affords you autonomy and the ability to pursue individual interests, which can enhance your relationship. On the other hand, the distance makes maintaining closeness and intimacy more difficult.  Thanks to new media technologies, such as Skype and text messaging, it’s easier to stay connected even when you are miles apart.

When you’re apart you miss out on the mundane things in one another’s lives, so it’s important to keep each other updated about those things. Send a quick text when something funny happens in a meeting, or send her a picture of the new lunch spot you think she’d love. Also, don’t forget to let her know you’re thinking of her throughout the day. A quick, email letting her know you’re thinking of her is sure to put a smile on her face.

Staying in contact during the day also puts less pressure on you to have a long, in-depth conversation every night. However, when you do chat, even if it’s just for a few minutes, try to use Skype or FaceTime. Seeing each other will not only help you feel connected, but will eliminate miscommunication by allowing you to see one another’s nonverbals.

Maintaining your long-distance relationship by paying attention to the little things will help you stay connected and allow you to pick up right where you left off once you’re reunited.

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Sylvia Says: Relationship Q&A

Dear Sylvia: My sister-in-law is worse than my mother-in-law! When I first met her we became fast friends. Now that I’m married to her brother she’s turned in to the devil. She’s always trying to stir up trouble by talking about my husband’s exes and making me feel that I don’t know my husband like she does. I was so excited to get her as a sister-in-law, but now I can’t stand her. Should I let her have it or just keep my opinion to myself?

—-Soured Sis-in-law

Dear Soured: Although the media often portrays mothers-in-law as the most difficult in-law to deal with, you’re learning first-hand that sisters-in-law can be just as troublesome! If your sister-in-law is very close to your husband, she may be experiencing jealousy as you “take him away” from her.

You can go two ways with this: (1) kill her with kindness, or (2) speak up. When she says something about an ex, say “I know, BLANK told me all about her and her craziness.” If she tries to act like you don’t know your husband, ask her to tell you more about the topic or share a childhood memory. Finally, invite her to hang out with the two of you, occasionally. This way, she’ll see you’re not trying to box her out. If that doesn’t work have your hubby tell her it’s hurting his feelings watching her treat you this way. If she cares about him, she’ll want to shape up rather than ship out!

Dear Sylvia: My wife has a stronger sex drive than I do. She is always in the mood and gets mad when I’m not. She thinks that I’m not attracted to her because she thinks men always want to “do it.” How can I reassure her that I’m still attracted to her, but just don’t have the same level of desire she does?

—-Bedroom Blues

Dear Blues: You’re right, the media does portray men as sex crazed maniacs who, even on their deathbeds, would be ready for a romp. But, just like women, men sometimes aren’t in the mood because they’re tired, stressed, or just have an overall lower sex drive. However, if you have no desire to have sex I suggest you get a physical, there may be an underlying health problem such as low testosterone. You and your wife may also want to visit a marriage counselor to talk through the emotional and relational affects this issue is having on your marriage.

Although you shouldn’t have to have sex when you don’t want to, physical intimacy is important to a marriage and to your wife. So, find a way to be intimate that doesn’t involve intercourse. Take some time to make out, massage one another, or go back to high school and do some good ole’ fashion dry humping. And who knows, without the pressure of sex you may just end up wanting to round third base.

 

Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

 

Dear Sylvia: I recently got engaged. My fiancé and I are only beginning to plan our wedding and my future mother-in-law is already butting in with her opinions. She’s already trying to control everything—the location, color scheme, even our first dance song! I’m at my wits end and I’m afraid it’s just beginning. How can I get her to stop butting in?

—-Doormat Daughter-in-law

Dear Doormat: You’re learning an important lesson about marriage: You don’t just marry the man, you marry the family too! And it looks like your fiancé’s mother thinks she’s the one walking down the aisle, not you. Your fiancé needs to nip this in the bud right now. Have him speak to her alone and let her know that although you both appreciate her excitement, you really want this wedding to reflect who you are as a couple. Then give her one task that you don’t care too much about and let her run with it so she feels included in the wedding.  But, it’s important that your fiancé speaks now or you’ll forever have to hold your peace!

Dear Sylvia: I’ve been seeing a girl for a few weeks. Recently though I’ve realized I’m just not that into her. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and we already have plans. She’s a sweet girl and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Should I go through with our date and then break up with her after Valentine’s Day, or just pull the trigger now?

—-Heartbreaker

Dear Heartbreaker: You’re sweet to consider her feelings, but I say just pull the trigger. No girl wants a pity date, even if it means she’s solo on Valentine’s Day. Do her a favor and let her go now, that way you’ll both have a chance of getting struck again by Cupid’s arrow!

 

Sylvia Says: Relationship Q & A

Dear Sylvia: My mother-in-law routinely oversteps her boundaries when it comes to my sister-in-laws child, which results in her and her husband feeling like bad parents. Watching this has caused me to worry about how she will be with me, her daughter-in-law, when I produce a treasured grandchild. It’s one thing to establish boundaries with a birth parent, but different rules seem to apply with in-laws. What are the best ways to establish parenting boundaries with in-laws when they routinely show no regard for one’s parenting style? I don’t want to hurt her feelings when the time comes, but I will if I have to.

—-Boundary Builder

Dear Builder: Seems like you’re getting a glimpse into your future and it’s not pretty! If you don’t want history to repeat itself, I suggest starting to create boundaries now. If you let your mother-in-law overstep her boundaries with your marital relationship, suddenly constructing boundaries when a baby comes is going to be a rude awakening, for all of you.

Your husband is going to be the key to this process. If your mother-in-law oversteps boundaries now, it’s your husband’s job to let her know she has overstepped. In addition, your husband can start making comments to your mother-in-law about her behavior with your sister-in-law and jokingly let her know that behavior won’t fly when it’s you two rocking the bassinet.

Dear Sylvia: I recently got a mid-management job and a medium sized organization. I really like my boss and enjoy working for the company. Although I’m typically laid back, I feel that if I am going to get any respect as the “new guy” and move up in the company it’s important that I am honest about my opinions on our products and services. The past few meetings I was direct and open if I disagreed with my boss’ opinion, but he didn’t seem to respond well.  I even tried to use statements such as “I feel or I think” and smile to not put anyone on the defense but I still feel like it did not go well.  How can I hold my own while still holding on to my job?

—-New Guy

Dear Guy: The best advice I ever received when starting a new job was to “keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut.” In other words, take a little time to observe the culture so you don’t commit an inadvertent faux pas, which it appears you may have done. Although it is important to be able to share your opinions, especially when they can enhance the company, maybe you need to keep them to yourself for a bit longer. At your next meeting watch how other people interact with the head honcho and follow suit, at least for a little while.

In addition, you may want to bring up your opinions or suggestions to your boss in private. Your boss may have felt threatened, even though you tried to soften the blow, and was more worried about saving face than the company’s bottom line.

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