DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I (23 and 24) have been dating for the past seven months. We recently decided to move in together after being accepted into graduate schools in the same city. My whole family is extremely happy for us. They love my boyfriend and want only the best for us. They have even offered to help us financially if we need it, though we hope we won’t. However, since we announced the move, his mother has become increasingly cold toward me. At first I ignored it and just tried harder to befriend her and bond with her. On a recent trip to a cottage with his whole family, I noticed how rude and snappy she was being toward the both of us. Everything I did offended her, or made her roll her eyes. Shocked and upset, my boyfriend confronted her about it after the trip. She explained that she does not like me and continued to berate him about how controlling and manipulative I was, and how upset she was that my family had money to be able to help us out and she didn’t (we have never expected nor asked for any financial assistance from her). She didn’t even have one nice thing to say about me. My boyfriend and I are very upset about this. He completely disagrees with his mother, and tells her she is being unfair by not giving me a chance. I don’t even feel welcomed in their home anymore (which is in a different city). We are still moving in together, as this situation hasn’t affected our love or respect for each other. We just don’t know how to react to his mother’s dislike toward me (and perhaps soon-to-be dislike from other family members, as his mother is the dominating presence over his family). I am scared of what the future brings; should I still try to communicate and fix things with his mother, or should I remain distant?
DEAR WORRIED: Your boyfriend did the right thing to confront his mother over her behavior toward you. You could try to “fix” things, but only do so knowing that she might respond poorly.
You should always be polite toward her, and you should never initiate any criticism of her to your boyfriend. You two should also not discuss any financial matters with his mother, since she seems to take information innocently offered and turn it into ammunition.
The challenge here is for you to recognize that this puts your guy in a tough spot. If he is choosing you as his partner, he will have to defy his mother. You must let him do this in his own way. You should never compare your family to his, and you should be supportive of him through this challenge, without criticizing or harshly judging his family.
His mother might be passing through a tough transition of her own, as her son resolutely chooses his own path. Unfortunately, she is reacting in a way almost guaranteed to alienate him.
DEAR AMY: My wife and I have a casual friend for whom we’ve recently done some nice things. As a gesture of appreciation, he wants to cook dinner for us. He is a very good cook, so that’s not the issue. It’s just that we are busy and we cherish the few nights we get to have together and, also, we have friends we don’t see as often and we’d rather spend that kind of time with them. Is there a polite way of declining this kind of very generous invitation?
DEAR RELUCTANT: I think you should take him up on his offer. Otherwise it will just hang there . . . forever. The time you spend dodging this generous payback invitation might as well be spent enjoying it.
It is a further generosity to let this gentleman thank you properly. Accept his invitation, have a nice time and pat yourselves on the backs for being nice people.
DEAR AMY: I felt so sorry for “Crier,” who was trying to get through her son’s wedding without being a blubbering mess. I have the exact same problem! Fortunately, my doctor helped me out. I take a low-dose of Xanax and it evens everything out for me. I no longer cry at Hallmark commercials or weddings.
DEAR EVEN: I don’t know if I would find life to be necessarily better with everything “evened out,” but I’m glad this works for you.