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Carolyn Hax: Keep son’s best interests at heart

Dear Carolyn: My mother has recently decided she wants to move in with my family. My husband and I are not so happy about this decision. We have expressed our feelings to her about this, but she doesn’t seem get that my husband and I would like to raise our son alone. She has different ideas from ours about parenting. What should we do without hurting her feelings? – Concerned

Key points recap:

1. You’ve already “expressed our feelings,” which I take to mean some fluffinated version of “You’re not welcome because you’ll be all up in our grills about our child-rearing methods.”

2. She “doesn’t seem to get” this, which I take to mean that she’s still declaring her … desire? intent? to move in.

3. And, you want a solution that won’t hurt her feelings, which I take to mean that you want her to change her mind so you won’t have to be the bad guys.

1+2+3 = a reminder that I’m a pragmatist, not a possessor of magic powers. There’s no option here that’s cost- or consequence-free.

That means the only good choice is the one that most honestly reflects your priorities. So far, you’ve cast this as a decision between your interests and your mother’s. It might help to clarify things if instead you cast it as a decision that must be in the best interests of your son.

Would he benefit more from having your mom there, from seeing adults learn to reconcile different beliefs and practices, from having another adult to care for him, from seeing you treat an elder with compassion even though it means you and your family must make sacrifices?

Or would he benefit more from living in a consistent and harmonious environment, learning from parents who aren’t hostage to their own conflict-avoidant tendencies, and who are mindful that adhering to their beliefs often leads to unpopular choices?

Wanting to make everyone happy, or wanting an awkward situation to go away, creates prime conditions for wishful thinking. Chances are you know enough about yourself, your husband, your mother and your son to know who needs to be protected from whom, and why; now’s the time to be truthful with yourself about these dynamics, brutally so, and to make the difficult call.

Hi, Carolyn:

Throughout their relationship, my friend has been the person to help her boyfriend out financially, from rent, groceries and bills to plane tickets for international trips!

The boyfriend broke up with my friend. Can my friend ask to be compensated for the money she spent on him? She has helped out past significant others financially. How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to her again? – T.

Lock her in a tower? Or is that too Rapunzellian.

If the nth time is the charm and experience works its educational magic on your friend, then she won’t need a how-to from either of us; she’ll just add “I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable being your financial fallback plan” to her romantic phrasebook.

And if she hasn’t reached this point, then no amount of pleading will keep her from trying to buy love and acceptance again. As with compensation from her ex, asking and receiving are entirely different things.

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