Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I am at the end of my rope. My mother-in-law is a wonderful, giving person, and I care for her. But she does not seem to understand boundaries.
Last weekend, my daughter and her family came for a visit. I wanted to spend some time alone with them and invited my in-laws to drop by later in the afternoon to see the grandchildren.
My mother-in-law showed up two hours early and brought a friend. When I reminded her of the time, she said she would wait in the front yard until I was ready. That was annoying enough, but she then informed me that she wanted to show her friend our house. Annie, our house was in no condition to have people wandering through it, and I told her so. Despite my objections, she barged right ahead.
I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I need to make it clear that this is my house and she needs to respect my decisions. My daughter says I need to be firmer. My husband has asked me not to say anything when these things happen, and he refuses to tell his mother when she has overstepped. Now what? — Mi Casa, not Su Casa
Dear Su Casa: Your husband should speak to his mother and ask her to be more respectful, but since he won’t do it, you will have to. Your daughter is right. You need to be more forceful, but do so with extreme politeness. If she shows up with a friend for a guided tour, stop her at the door, smile apologetically and say, “I’m so sorry, but we are not prepared for company. I wish you had called ahead.” Regardless of Mom’s protestations, stick to your guns. She will be angry, but she won’t do it again. You will get the boundaries you want, although we cannot guarantee your relationship will be the same. The choice is yours.
Dear Annie: My wife and I are members of a private country club. On Mother’s Day, we invited our extended family for dinner there. Our 30-year-old grandson came dressed in worn-out jeans and a work shirt thrown over a muscle shirt.
As hosts, would it be proper to ask him not to dress this way in the future? At our old country club, the manager would have asked him to leave, but that’s not the case here. We’d like to invite the family for the holidays, but we are — Embarrassed in North Carolina
Dear Embarrassed: It is perfectly OK to tell a grandchild (or his parents) that you would appreciate it if all guests would dress appropriately for the occasion. Not everyone understands what that entails, so be sure to specify what you mean.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Lonely and Spiritually Dead,” who has been married for 35 years but hasn’t been intimate for the past 21. He offered to give his wife everything if she would just sign the divorce papers, but after three years, nothing has happened. Please tell him that he has choices other than staying miserable or “filing for a standard divorce that will drag on forever, making only the attorneys rich.” He could choose the collaborative law process.
Collaborative law is a grassroots movement that has been growing at a rapid pace. He can find out about it through the website at collaborativepractice.com.
Collaborative law is about preserving important relationships and avoiding the destructive consequences of the traditional adversarial litigation process, while helping to transition the family members through a difficult time in a more affirming way. It’s private, cost-effective and can produce amazingly healing results.
Every state has collaborative practitioners. Please urge all of your readers to look into it before filing for divorce. — Canton, Mass.
Dear Canton: The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals includes legal, mental health and financial professionals. It also offers mediation, which can be less damaging than the usual adversarial divorce.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.7.10