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Carolyn Hax: Marriage book just a book – maybe

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend’s mom recently sent him a book about tips for a successful marriage. Our first reaction was to have a good laugh about it; we’re not ready for marriage yet, and neither of us has talked with our parents about it.

But as I thought about it more, questions started popping into my head: If down the road she decides she wants us to hurry up with the grandkids, will I be getting “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” in my Christmas stocking?

He asked her if there was any additional meaning behind the gift, and she assured him she just thought it would be an interesting read for him.

I’d like to take her word for it, but I’m still kind of suspicious. Do you think this could be a harbinger of how she treats us in the future, and if so, how do we deal with that? – Anon.

Please go back to your first reaction – if only because my laughing would then be laughing with you, not at you.

I don’t know which is funnier, her sending the book, or insisting with a straight face that it was merely “an interesting read.” Either way, I’m in her debt.

And either way, I do think you’ve seen the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Even if that future doesn’t materialize, though, it can still be productive to look this meddling style in the eye.

It has already taught you that: (1) You and your boyfriend both laughed. Meaning, neither of you reflexively put your dukes up. Meaning, yay. (2) Your boyfriend wasn’t afraid to approach his mom, where the parent to beware is one who must be handled like unexploded ordnance.

So, good news so far – you were a team and he wasn’t afraid.

In time, you’ll learn whether you and he can stay unified, keep your senses of humor, and maintain warm feelings for the woman who may someday stuff your stocking with “101 Ways to Humor Your Mother-in-Law.”

Those aren’t just three steps for dealing with her (or just about anything), they’re also windows into how you’ll treat her in the future – conveniently, the part you can control.