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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