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Daily Columns Archives

Page 23 Prev-Next Page

 

 

April 17, 2001

 

Lost Friendship, and 

Way Out of Line Mother-in-Law

 

Dear Mrs. Web

I recently had a falling out with a friend. She has been married for nine years with three children and became involved with another man. She confided in me and I thought I was being a good listener and friend. She had her first job working in a bar and got a lot of attention from the men there. I could understand how it could have happened.

Her husband suspected her infidelity and moved out.  I met with and spoke to the man she was seeing and told him to end the relationship.  I didn't say anything to her husband.

She hasnít really spoken to me since. I called her and told her I was trying to be a good friend. She says sheís not mad but when I see her at bowling once a week, she refuses to talk to me. She is back with her husband. I heard that she is now spreading cruel rumors about me.

My other friends and family say I should be angry with her but I just feel sorry for her. I miss her friendship. I think we could just forget about what happened and be friends again. Should I confront her and talk it out?

I know you were her good friend, but  you put yourself  in the middle of her life. You stepped over a line. I am not saying it wasnít a good thing for you to do, but the interference cost you the friendship. Sometimes we interfere to do someone good, like telling someoneís family he is abusing drugs or is suicidal.  These actions  may ruin a friendship, but are what a good friend does.

I understand you miss your friend. Perhaps, someday you will have some sort of relationship with this woman, but not now. 

From my perspective, you havenít lost a whole lot. Your friend is philandering liar. Why would you want her in the middle of your life? These behaviors, and her subsequent treatment of you, are all indicators of poor character. It is one thing to understand someoneís motives, but it doesnít mean we have to accept the behavior. We shouldnít have friends that compromise our integrity.

Friendships that end should be mourned. You might want to make up a goodbye ritual for yourself, such as putting all pictures and mementos from the friendship in a box or doing something alone that you both enjoyed doing together. Give it time. You will find a strong desire and habit to want to call and communicate, but over time, this will diminish. You will find another close friend. I know this because you have been a good friend and many people are looking for one.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been married for almost 1 year, and am 4 months pregnant. Over 2 weeks ago I fell on the ice on my way to see my doctor and broke my leg in 3 places. I am now in a wheelchair and using a walker. I have a full-leg cast. My mother-in-law flew into help out which we really appreciated because I have another child from a previous marriage and my husband has a demanding job. It was great to have her here.

One afternoon she had been on the phone talking to her oldest daughter. When she hung up, she told me how she and her family felt sorry for her son.  In addition to his new job he now had to rush home from work and take me to medical appointments, as well as take care of me.  It made me feel just awful since I didnít plan on being in this situation. All I could manage to say was that he is my husband and I would do the same thing for him if the situation were reversed.

Then I began to cry. She was very disturbed by this.  I had another crying spell when my husband came homeÖ it was just everything, the pregnancy, and being laid up.  She said I was being a big baby and decided I was crying because I didnít want her there. She also said many other cruel things. No matter what I said, she remained insulted and flew home in the morning on the first plane out.

My husband is feeling  badly about this entire situation since he is very close to his family. He blames me too for being emotional around her and says I hurt her feelings. I phoned just to tell her how sorry I was. She told me to forget about it, but I could tell she was still very upset. She had told me that all the family members now know what happened and they were all upset too. I know they will never want to talk to me again.

My husband hasnít been the same towards me since this happened. He is distant and seems depressed. I also need his emotional and physical support and I feel so alone right now. I feel I have lost a best friend. I just want things back to normal again.

First I want to tell you that you didnít do anything wrong. You are in a difficult situation and crying is a normal response for someone who is feeling bad and pregnant Ė a lot of crying.

Your mother-in-lawís behavior was blaming, callous, and, impolite, to boot. This may be the way she responds to emotion, but that doesnít change the fact it was poor form. It is not your job to keep her from feeling bad; grownups take care of their own emotions and responses. She acted like a spoiled child. 

I would at best, ignore the incident and continue to have a cordial relationship with her. I imagine this is how she deals with everybody and the family members take turns in her doghouse. I am sure everyone in his family is used to this power game. The only way to combat this stuff is to ignore the doghouse, withdraw when you are in it, and ignore her inappropriateness. Always remain cordial, but a bit distant and remember: her inappropriate behavior is about her, not you.

My concern is your husband. His job is to deal with his motherís behaviors. This guy is going to have to clear things up with his mother. If this sort of cutoff is the way your mother-in-law controls her family, this may be a difficult, or even impossible for him to do.  I imagine he is depressed because he is in a tough place, in hot water with his mother and not adequately protecting his wife. He is going to have to learn how to be a different man around his mother and not let her yank him and his family around. That is long term work.

I have a terrific book on my bookshelf called How to Hug a Porcupine. It was made for people who are coping with problem people like your mother- in-law. Buy it and read it. Your husband may not be ready to face the fact his mother is so difficult, sometimes it easier to blame everyone else rather than confront a hellcat. However, make sure you read it to take care of yourself and your children around her.

Right now I would talk to him about the distance you feel in the relationship.  I would talk about your concern for your relationship. I wouldnít bring Mom or the incidents up; I would just talk about the two of you, man and wife and how you as a family will cope with different stresses in your marriage.

 

 

April 16, 2001

 

Daughter Moved Home, 

Dropping a Class? and 

Lawyer Presents

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I hope you can help. My daughterís fiancť is graduating from law school in May. I need to find an appropriate gift. If I give money, what would be an appropriate amount?

I would ask my daughter what her fiancť might enjoy for his graduation. He is going to be your son-in-law soon so he is almost a family member. I would give a gift certificate rather than cash, to his favorite clothing store/catalog.

If you want something more personal, all lawyers love briefcases and leather file folders. Personalized. Have your daughter help with the shopping if she is in the area.

Be generous now, you are not only gaining a son, and a father for your future grandchildren, but a a lifetime of free legal advice!

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My 41-year-old daughter arrived on our doorstep late one night 6 weeks ago. She said she had left her husband and that the marriage had not been going well for a number of years. We gave her a bedroom and turned another room into her own sitting room.

Her husband and twenty- year- old son are both devastated that she left. She recently started dating a man she has known since kindergarten. He has also left his wife. She told us he was just a buddy but recently he has slept over a few times.

My husband and I feel terribly about supporting this behavior. How do we approach our daughter? We told her we would not interfere in her life but she is not doing anything to repair her marriage or reach out to her son. I feel she has not been totally honest with us and is destroying her marriage and hurting her son in the process. How should we address this? We donít want her to be out in the streets.

In your shoes, I would tell your daughter, lovingly, but firmly, that she needs to pack and leave, within 48 hours.  I would recommend she go home and work on repairing her relationship with her husband.  No marriage should end on such a sour note without both spouses working together to try to repair it. She owes it to her marriage, her husband, her son, and her family.

It sounds like your daughter is going through an irresponsible period and she may not follow this advice but go off on her own for a while. Give her some time. Freedom from marriage is initially appealing, but over time, it often becomes less attractive.  

I wouldnít worry about where she ends up if she doesnít go home. She is a grown woman and can take care of herself.

 


 

Dear Mrs Web,

My older cousin is a sophomore in college - 2 years ahead of me. She has this long report due next Monday that he has not even started on yet. My aunt wants me to help her with it. Since my cousin and I are close, I donít mind.  I have been emailed material to organize into a rough draft that she can type into a final copy.

I donít understand why she hasnít started the report yet. She says she would rather drop the class than do the report. But it makes no sense to drop a class in April if you have an A, does it? 

 

 

April 13, 2001

 

Married, With Children,

 Asking for Help, and 

Wants Friends

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

One of my favorite sitcoms, now seen in reruns, was 'Married With Children.í Did you ever see the show during its 10-year run?  If so, what advice would you have given to Al, Peg, and the kids? 

Dear Mrs. Web lives a rather backward life and has not seen this show. Sorry, I canít be much help to you. From the little I have heard about the program, Dear Mrs. Web would probably have to give them a good talking to.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My parents, both in their 70ís, had a fire in their condo. They live about 7 miles from me. I moved them here to my house, found them a temporary apartment, and have been dealing with the contractors, insurance, condo management, and utilities. I did this along with my part-time job and caring for our young daughter. I also fixed their meals and made them feel comfortable in our home.

I have two sisters in the area; one who lives about 12 miles from here and another who lives within a mile of my parentís apartment. While I was helping Mom and Dad neither one of them called or asked to help.

I am feeling very resentful towards them both. I think they should have offered to do more during this difficult time. My parents, however, think I am being unreasonable. They say if I had called either of them, they would have helped. I feel they should have pitched in, or at least called and asked. May I have your opinion? No one except my husband seems to think I have the right to be upset.

The Bill of Rights does not contain the Right to Be Upset.  How you respond is your choice. 

I understand your frustration. Your sisters are not as thoughtful as you are. Most people arenít. This is not something to become upset about. That would be useless emotional grief.

You have learned from this. When there is something that needs doing in your family, you will have to ask for help in order to receive it. This is very common. Most people wait to be told what to do. Very few people take the reins. That is why there are more workers than managers.

You have also learned something good about yourself. You are proactive and good management material. Donít blow up your family over this, it is not worth it. Next time Ė ask for what you need. All good managers learn to this, it is called delegating.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I'm 16 years old. Since I was 12  I have hated to socialize and I donít trust people. I had a difficult time in school and was teased for being too quiet. I have no confidence. I have had many opportunities to model and act but I donít feel I am worthy of that much attention.

Sometimes I get upset and end up hating everyone and everything that crosses my path. I guess I hate the world during those episodes. I donít have any friends left. I always feel when somebody looks at me that they think I am snobbish and they are disgusted with me.

I want to talk to other people my age and I want somebody to like me. Every friend I've ever had has either stolen from me, lied to me or used me to cure their boredom. I donít know what to do anymore, I donít know whatís wrong with me. Do you have any advice? 

I think you are asking a lot of other sixteen-year-olds. Most of them are not yet able to have a relationship of any depth. Hanging around, curing boredom and acting like a jerk is par for the course. 

There are wonderful, friendly sixteen-year-olds but you really have to look for them and root them out. It takes being more interested in them than you.

At your age, most people donít feel like anyone likes them. You seem to feel things strongly; "hate" is a strong word. Maybe it is time you stopped focusing on yourself and what you like and donít like and start focusing on others. Use that passion of yours to help others. It will form your character in a more pleasing way and will give you a better focus.  It will, in the long run, attract you friends with the kind of depth of character you want.

The best way I know to get out of your shell, start having a life, and develop a self worth having is to volunteer. And I donít mean for trendy physical ailment of the week. 

I mean rolling up your sleeves and working in a foster home, teaching people to read, read to the ill at local nursing homes, work in the pediatric ward of a local hospital. Something with some grit and depth to it that will use the kind of passion I sense from your letter. It works; I vouch for it. School guidance counselors sometimes can help you get started. So, can some hospitals and many volunteer organizations.

 

 

April 12, 2001

 

School Danger, and 

He's Attracted!!

 

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I was involved with a bad crowd at school. I went away for a year and now I am back. I am no longer involved with the crowd, but we keep in touch. A teacher at the school had made a point of making my life miserable. I donít like the guy.

I have been keeping to the straight and narrow. I heard recently that some of the old group is planning to trash this teacher. I am hearing about vandalism and property damage at his home and some are even talking about personal injury. I am not part of it; I donít approve of it

I donít have a bad relationship with any of these guys; I just am living a different life now.

What should I do? Should I tell the teacher? Since he hates me so much would that advisable? I am afraid he might hold me responsible. I donít want to see anything bad happen but I also donít want to get ANY of the blame for it. What should I do?

Tell your parents. Then, sit down with your school principal tomorrow morning. With a parent, if it is possible. You might need adult representation in the school system. Have the teacher there too. Tell the principal exactly what you said in this letter. Heck, take the letter with you!

This is an adult matter and the principal is ultimately responsible for the staff and students. That's why he gets the most pay and the reserved parking space. 

You may also want to talk with them about making sure you are safe too. Thugs sometimes become upset if their plans are mucked up. Take care now

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web, 

I work with a woman I find amazing. I am 32 and I have never met anyone like her before. We flirt but I am not really sure how she feels about me. I think about her all the time and look forward to seeing her everyday. 

She will literally take my breath away at times, with a glance from across the room or a smile as she walks by. She is 21, smart, very funny, and extremely beautiful. 

Unfortunately, I am married. I do love my wife, and we arenít having any problems. We have been together since graduation, over 14 years. We have no children.

This other woman is always on my mind. I think she know how I feel, but again not sure. She does know that I do have a thing for her, but I donít believe she knows how far it goes. Should I tell this woman how I feel and see what happens? Maybe it will work and maybe she feels the same as I do. Please help

Sir, I cannot give you the go- ahead to ignore your wedding vows and pursue young, flirting women!  Many men and women become infatuated with someone while married. They all feel just the way you do. You are having a physical response to the excitement you feel around this woman. 

Frankly, she is playing you. Young women like to exercise and flaunt their power over susceptible men. Dear Mrs Web was once young and beautiful Ė she remembers.

How you handle it is a matter of character and morals. In your shoes, I would avoid this woman, even to the point of transferring to another division. You can detonate and ruin your entire life by moving towards this woman. Think clearly.

 

April 11, 2001

Hostess Gifts, A Mistake, They Don't Get Along, and He's Going Home

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been invited to my friendís family for Easter. Should I bring a gift when I go? Any ideas of what would be appreciated?

I have found that excellent chocolates are always welcome during the holidays.  In case you ever spend the holidays at my house,  Dear Mrs. Web prefers ones without cream centers!

If you are a gifted cook, homemade specialties are always a nice touch.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I dated this guy for only a week and we really clicked. Then there was a misunderstanding. A friend told me lies about him and I freaked out. I scared him off.

I tried to mend things with e-mails, a few phone calls, etc. He responds and he's nice but he doesn't make any effort. I know he likes me, but he was hurt. I cannot stop thinking about him, and I feel like I am chasing him. What should I do?

You have done everything you can. Sometimes due to circumstances, things donít work out. Let it go. You are obsessing about him. It is time to think about something else. There are many wonderful men out there.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My older brother, he is a senior in high school, and my mom have had a rough time together. He used to fight with mom all the time but they have not had any of their big showdowns recently. Things are still not right between them. 

It's kind of hard to explain. My brother just will not get close with her. Mom is always trying to do things to get more involved with him. He kind of shuts her out. It hurts my mom a lot. She told me that she is afraid she will lose him when he goes to college. I think she's a great parent. I can not understand why he does not think so.

At the end of the teen years many people feel a need to pull away a bit from their parents in order to feel like it will be like when they finally get to be responsible adults. They have to begin to learn how to strike out on their own, and figure out the kind of adult that they want to be. They have to form their own adult personality, not a carbon copy of their parents.

This is particularly true of some young men. Your mom is doing all the right things by pulling him into the family, and holding on tight to him. It sounds like she is a great and caring mom. You are lucky guys. 

I donít think she will lose him. I think she will eventually not have the young boy, but instead, will have a trustworthy, strong, young man. Moreover, their relationship will be different, but equally important.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web:

My boyfriend of 5 years is going home to his family for Easter holidays. It is a long 12-hour drive. I have met all of his family on many different occasions. He said he would normally invite me but he wanted me to save my vacation for our summer plans. He also wanted to be alone. He wanted to be with his mother who is slowing.

I am just fine about this; in fact, I have encouraged him to spend time with his family. I have a friend who thinks that it is odd that he is not taking me. I havenít seen any signs he is pulling away from our relationship; on the contrary, we are becoming closer. Should I be worried?

He said he is going home to connect with his family. He said he had rather you use your vacation days for summer plans. Sounds reasonable to me.  I don't think he is going to run off with the Easter Bunny!

 

 

 

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