1. Winifred Rosenburg

    My father-in-law was arrested last week. His family is obviously emotionally distraught over this. In addition to the emotional problems, the sequence of events that followed his arrest have revealed that his wife’s finances are not exactly where they should be considering she is not too far away from retirement. (She was unable to bail him out of jail and had to borrow money from relatives to hire a lawyer.) I am extremely concerned for her emotional and financial well-being, particularly considering she will likely be losing her husband’s income permanently. I have a knack for personal finances so I was thinking about offering to try to help get her finances in order. Would that be inappropriate?

    • No, that would not be inappropriate. I feel this way for two reasons:
      1) She’s family. Assisting family (blood related or otherwise) with more personal situations is fine.
      2) She needs it, and is going through a difficult time. As I’m sure you already know, one ought not lay blame on anyone/anything right now. In fact, I’d phrase it like this, “Jane, I know you’ve got a lot of unexpected stress right now. I just want you to know that I’m very good with finances, so let me know when you have a moment so we can go over yours to make sure you’re prepare for the difficulties ahead.”

      I am sorry that your family is facing this hard road, and I hope you and your husband are doing fine in spite of this turmoil.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree with Laura, it sounds like a lovely thing to do. However, it seems like it would be important to approach her with some discretion, and also to be prepared for her to say no. It may be that she does not want family to know about her situation and may feel more comfortable with the anonymity or confidentiality that a professional would provide. If you know of some professionals that you trust, you might approach her by both offering to help and also offering to refer her to trusted professionals if she would prefer that.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Sounds like genuine concern for a family member. That said, you might want seek your own legal advice for how close you want to get to this situation before its adjudicated. Many states have asset forfeiture laws that might render whatever help you offer useless.

  2. I have a question for everyone:
    How do you, personally, deal with guests who refuse to leave your house after a party/dinner? When clearing away the dishes and complaints about how early you have to wake up the next day don’t work, what do you do?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I find standing up and gradually edging towards the door can help. If that fails, I think it’s okay to say “it’s getting close to our bedtime so how about I see you out?”

    • Elizabeth

      You can also adjust things so that the ‘party’ ambiance is broken. Turn up the lights, turn off the music, turn off the TV. You might even ask for their assistance in cleaning up. “Hey, since you guys are still here, would you mind bringing the dirty dishes over to me in the kitchen?” I think Miss Manners had a good line, too. You say to your husband, “Well Hubs, we should probably get to bed so these people can head home!”

    • Alicia

      I serve stop serving alcohol and start serving coffee and water. A bit later I start clearing up and ask their help. If they are still there at that point I say something cleear but kind like:”Wow it has been great having you visit, but I really need to get to sleep so let’s continue this another day”

  3. Nina

    Hi Just Laura,

    I find direct is better–if I try to be “subtle” about it, no one notices until it’s so late I’m too exhausted to be polite, and feel guilty the next day. I find “I wish I could ask you to stay longer, but I’m just not a night owl. Thanks so much for coming!” works for me.

    This is not what I’d recommend, but for a while my husband was working extremely long days (20 hours) and if guests stayed too late, he would simply fall asleep in his chair. Hardly ideal, but it did actually work to remind people to get going!

  4. Expecting

    I am an expecting mother for the first time, and the subject has come up a few times already that I should start registering for baby items, or saving things I was going to buy myself for the registry.

    I am at a loss for what to say; I do not want a baby registry. I have tried to gently indicate that I’m not really interested in registering. Even before I was pregnant I had discussions with close family about how I did not feel registries were appropriate for babies. It was my understanding that baby showers were to give small basics and token items, not large pieces of furniture and expensive car seats with a matching bathtub. The reasons others have stated for in favor of a registry haven’t convinced me either: “You won’t get what you want,” “You won’t get very much,” “You’ll just get clothes,” “It won’t match.” It all seems to be focused around obtaining the right items and getting big gifts from people rather than celebrating the new addition. I mean, I’m the parent, I chose to have the baby — shouldn’t I be buying the big-ticket items myself and not expecting (and via the registry, telling) other people to do it for me?

    But registries are so ubiquitous that I wonder if the family might be upset that I didn’t register, which isn’t exactly how I wanted to start out the baby’s relationship with them. Do you have any advice?

    • Country Girl

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with not registering. (People have managed to get by for decades without.) If you choose not, simply tell people exactly what you’ve said here: that you are more interested in celebrating the life of your new little one than in receiving gifts. And in my opinion, you are correct. Registering for car seats and strollers is over the top. Typically only parents of the expecting couple would think to buy a gift so expensive, and they’ll likely run the purchase by you anyway.

      However, as you are seeing, there will be folks who want to give you a gift to celebrate your new joy but have fallen accustomed to buying from registries where the “picking out” work is already done for them. So you may have to be slightly understanding that Aunt Gertie is nervous that she will spend money on an item for the babe that you will already have/not like/etc. Since you seem to be seeing such an “uprising”, you may consider registering for a handful of small useful items (onesies, washclothes, bottles) just to appease those who fluster easily at selecting gifts. Congrats on your new addition! =)

    • Alice

      I don’t think it’s about “big-ticket” items. Family and friends want to get you something nice, and they want it to be something you genuinely like. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing you’re getting a gift that they’re actually going to use. You don’t even have to tell everyone about it, only if they ask you or if someone asked your Mother for example.

      • Alicia

        Registry are great. Basically I will be getting a friend who is having a kid a baby gift. I do not wnat them to have to return it so I want to do something nobody else is getting them. So I want to know humm do you have a bumbo, diaper genie, baby bathtub, whatever. I hate when registries are all big ticket items or if they are overly specific ie must be this kiddy outfit not some other kiddie outfit. But for example a baby shower i went to recently the mother refused to register. I gave her one of those baby tummy time mats with the dangling stuff. So did 4 other of the 15 people at the shower. She also got two bumbos. Had she registered I would have seen that she already had one of those mats and would have gotten her the baby bathtub I was debating instead. Also the friend who I went to babies r us to buy gifts with would not have bought the 2nd bumbo. What happened as a result was 6 of the 15 guests felt awkward about giving duplicate gifts.

  5. Bridesmaids

    I have been planning my wedding and trying to decide who I will choose as bridesmaids. Is there some type of etiquette regarding asking your sister in law (your brothers wife) to be a part of the wedding. My dad feels very strong about me having her in the wedding but I do not necessarily feel the same way.

    • It is your wedding and your fiance’s wedding. It is not your father’s wedding. Even if your father is paying for the wedding, he doesn’t have the right to choose your attendants. That said, I suggest letting the sister-in-law participate somehow, if she wants. Have you considered asking her to be a reader?

      And who knows? You may ask, and she may decline. I hope your wedding planning goes smoothly from here!

      • Country Girl

        I agree. I asked only my very closest friends to be my bridesmaids and my SIL to be my “ceremony coordinator”. She was in charge of making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be and telling the bridal party when to go down the aisle in time with the music. I could tell she was really honored to be involved and had a great time with it. =)

    • Jody

      One question I would raise is how many sisters-in-law do you have? If this person would be the only SIL left out, it might be better to include her — not necessarily as an attendant (Just Laura’s suggestion of being a reader is excellent).

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Just Laura is correct. However, I personally feel it’s a good idea to ask all sisters, sisters-in-law and future sisters-in-law to be bridesmaids unless there is an extreme reason not to like there is an abusive relationship involved. Weddings are essentially family events and choosing friends over family to be bridesmaids tells your family that you don’t think of them as family as much as your friends. Even if that is the case, it’s not wise to rub their noses in it. Plus bridesmaid is more of an honorary title than a functional one so if you don’t consider your sister-in-law responsible you don’t have to give her any responsibilities. I don’t have a great relationship with my sister but I made her my maid of honor any way and nothing bad happened. It made my mother happy, and it sounds like this will make your father happy so I think you should go ahead and ask her to be a bridesmaid.

  6. Maggie

    I was recently married to “Nick” and we had a smaller wedding (about 75 people) of close family and friends. Neither of our parents were involved in planning or paying for the wedding. Also, Nick is not close to his parents. They live far away and we only see them once a year or less.

    During our engagement, Nick’s mother extended invitations to a relative or two that were not on our guest list and we were polite but forthright with her, explaining that the wedding space was small, our budget was limited, and we simply could not accommodate any additional guests. At the wedding, she behaved strangely, seeking attention (e.g. trying to cut in on our first dance, shouting at the best man during his toast, hugging me roughly and pulling several bobby pins out of my hair when I pulled away), but we let all this go and tried to see the humor in the situation. She hasn’t spoken to us since the wedding, but has mentioned in several letters to Nick that various family members (who I have never met and who Nick has not seen in decades) were disappointed at not being invited to the wedding. Having previously explained our desire for a small wedding, we have brushed these remarks off.

    However, this evening we received a form letter from her. It is addressed to us and two other families. It appears that she sent the same body text to everyone and inserted a few different recipient addresses on each printout. In the body (that she apparently sent to her extended family) she invites us to Nick’s father’s 70th birthday party and then says, “Nick and Maggie have also gotten married and not everyone was invited to the wedding, so I am including in the same party an introduction to the remaining family.” She then descries how “both parties” will take place at a Chinese restaurant near her home.

    This letter seems both hostile and openly critical of us and our wedding guest list. I cannot believe she would draw the attention of those family members that we didn’t invite to this fact in a way that might make them feel slighted. And I feel like, if I were to attend this party, I would be forced to immediately apologize to everyone I would meet who obviously didn’t receive an invitation to the wedding. We were not asked whether we’d like to participate in this event or serve as some kind of co-guests of honor with Nick’s dad. And we certainly don’t want any of these individuals (who again, don’t know us) to feel compelled to bring us a wedding gift. My questions for the group are whether I am overreacting about her letter, whether others would feel obligated to attend, and whether it would be OK to stay home while Nick attends (since it is also his father’s birthday celebration).

    • Jerry

      I can sympathize. Or is it empathize . . . I haven’t had my coffee this morning. We had some wedding drama over our guest list resulting in a close family member deciding not to attend because she couldn’t get her way. I concur with Alicia’s excellent analysis and write separately only to add some additional thoughts.

      Short answers to your questions:

      (1) You are not overreacting to your mother-in-law’s letter. At best, it appears to be inarticulately written. I also agree that she should have told you whether she was planning a party in your name.

      (2) If I were a member of the extended family that was not invited to your actual wedding, I would not feel obligated to attend your mother-in-laws party. I like to think that most people understand that extended family isn’t always close. I also would not feel obligated to bring a gift. (Despite what some people believe, a wedding invitation does not require a gift.)

      (3) You either both attend the party and support each other, or neither of you attend. You do not have to apologize to anyone you meet who was not invited to the wedding. (If anyone has the bad grace to ask why they were not invited, you can tell the truth: “How kind of you to ask about our happiness. It was very important to us to have a very small wedding.” The first sentence refocuses the questioner that your wedding is about you and not them and acts as a subtle rebuke without coming across as defensive.) But you can’t stay home in protest while your husband has to fend off his family.

      Now you didn’t ask for any additional advice, but I will offer some. (If you’re not interested stop reading here.) I would call your mother-in-law that her behavior has been unacceptable and that you expect an improvement. If she balks, a subtle reminder that you control access to grandchildren should do the trick.

    • Alice

      I’m surprised this hasn’t already been discussed this with her actually… cutting into your first dance and acting obnoxious at your wedding is inexcusable. Also throwing a party and making it seem like you’re a part of it is also unacceptable. Nick should of already spoken to your mother-in-law, adult to adult, that you both will no longer tolerate her behaviour and that you are not comfortable going to her party given the circumstances. Nick going without you will only make it seem like you’re the only one who has a problem with her behaviour if he doesn’t actually speak to her first. Stand up for yourself!

  7. Alicia

    It is your mother in law. So I would speak to your spouse. Assuming that upon discussion Nick feels how you do then yes you and he need to decline her invite to the party. Explain to her that her letter and putting you in this position is why you are both (nick too) are declining the invite to the party. Then take your father in law out for his 70th birthday another time. If Nick has a sibling who will be attending and can answer questions about where you two are with a “Oh they felt they could not attend after the invite made a big deal of their wedding as they did not want to distract away from dads celebration”This would help. Option 2 would be for you both to attend the party after your husband explains to his mom that you are both upset about this and then at the slightest mention of weddings both you and husband deflect something like”Oh how kind of you to mention our wedding but today is all about father in law turning 70. Do you have any entertaining stories of father in law that you can tell me?”

    Yes it is openly critical of your guest list and is airing private disagreement in public. Nick needs to get his mom to drop this. Generally the adult child should be the one to put their parent in their place when it needs to be done.

  8. Lisa

    These behaviors strike me as worrisome beyond “my mother-in-law is obnoxious”. Has she been to see a doctor recently? To me, this smacks of dementia or other neurological disorder and she should get a work up as soon as possible to determine if there is an organic cause for such outbursts. Of course, this might be exactly why your husband is not close with her, if this has been a pattern her entire life.

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