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Good manners are learned from your family

Etiquette for Families

Family etiquetteMeet our resident family etiquette expert on StageofLife.com

Stage of Life is pleased to introduce etiquette expert, Jay Remer, to its team.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to parents, children, in-laws, and families.

But wait...

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question ...ask us a family etiquette question now.  If you have children and have an etiquette question, contact us and we'll post your question and Jay's reply here.

Read below for real-life etiquette advice submissions about family manners, and don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Tips for Families

Birthday Cray Cray

Should I expect a card, call or text from my friends to wish my kids a happy birthday? 

Dear Jay,
I am a mother to two boys, one just turned 9 and the other will be turning 4 in September. I have always loved birthdays, especially my own. As a child it would thrill me to receive birthday cards in the mail from my grandparents and birthday wishes from family and friends. Now that I have kids of my own I want them to have special birthdays. 

Over the years my friends with and without kids have been wishy washy about wishing my kids a happy birthday in some way or the other. I do not expect presents or cards, but I do think it would be nice if they called or texted my child a happy birthday wish. These are not just casual friends, but life long friends who refer to themselves as Auntie so and so. 

Is it rude for them to not call or text happy birthday to my kids? I know people have lives, but I feel if someone is important in your life you make time for them to feel special, especially on their birthday. I do not know if they are rude or I am too sensitive and unrealistic in my expectations for wishing kids happy birthday. 

What do you think? Im trying to decided if i should tell them it hurts me or just ignore it and stop caring about birthdays since birthdays seem to not matter so much in my circle. 


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Not everyone feels the same way about your children’s birthday as you do. The days of birthday cards in the mail are almost over. Don’t give up hope though! Perhaps if you send their children cards, they will reciprocate. People without children are unlikely to remember friends’ children’s birthdays, especially small children. So, they are not being rude; you are being somewhat over sensitive. But, don’t give up on birthday celebrations! I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Man Child Husband and Bully Mother In-Law

How do I address the fact that my mother in law throws things away without asking me while she visits even if my husband takes her side? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws typically come to visit every 3-4 months since we moved from our home state.  Although my family tends to be more private and do not need to see each other frequently (we actually live in the same city), I respect that his is different. 

Since getting married 5 years ago, he has yet to plan a family vacation for just us. It always has to be with his entire family. My husband is very much the man child in that I do everything for him and our 3 children (including all preparations for his parents’ visit while he plays X-box), nothing is ever his fault; he will not take responsibility for anything, but more importantly I often feel I lack his support in most things. 

What is bothersome is that once they do arrive, in typical fashion, his Mother will commandeer my kitchen, which I still keep quiet about out of respect for him, them and my sanity. However the last 2 visits I have found something that bothers me, she throws things of mine out. I'm not talking about large things, I'm referring to small things like sponges, or sink strainers and although these items are indeed small, I find it incredibly disrespectful to come into anyone's home, and assume it's ok to throw anything away. 

On my Mother’s advice, I said nothing until they left. I then mentioned it to him asking him to address it. His automatic response of course was to take her side, and make up excuses. Needless to say, that upset me and hurt me even more. Am I overreacting? Is it appropriate to throw out items in someone else's home, even if they are family? Also, how should I handle this? Any help is greatly appreciated!!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your husband’s lack of responsibility shows that he never grew up. He really is not ready for a relationship, let alone a marriage and three children. But, here you are and what do you do? His mother is a bully and has him under her thumb. I would suggest that you need professional counseling in order for your relationship to endure. He needs to clearly understand that now that he is married to you, you and your children take precedence over his mother. This will not be easy, but without this, you are doomed. The next time his mother tosses anything of yours, call her on it and tell her that it’s your house and you will be calling the shots from here on out. If she doesn’t like it, don’t allow her back. 

Your home is your castle. You must lay down the law, for if you don’t, no one will understand that you have respect for your own house and how you manage things, including your children. Your husband needs to take on the full responsibility the head of a household should. You have a big problem here. I wish you the best of luck, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can handle this one alone! I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Disrespectful Niece Bringing Extra Guests

How do I let my niece know that she can't bring extra guests that aren't even family to a family reunion that I am hosting? 

Dear Jay,
I am hosting a family reunion weekend at my beach house and just heard that my niece is planning to bring another unrelated family of 3 to the event. I am irritated because I would never dream of showing up as anyone's invited guest with others in tow, especially for a family reunion. It's not the first time she has invited others to my house. I feel that I am being taken advantage of.

Help.... What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are hosting the event and you control the guest list. No one ever explained this very basic etiquette rule to your niece. You now have the honors. Simply let her know that uninvited guests are not welcome and that in the future, if she wants to make additions to the guest list, she needs to ask, but not to necessarily think that asking will do the trick. In fact, she should not even ask in the first place. It’s inappropriate and rude. She sounds like a bully in the making. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Airfare Wasn't Enough

Is it wrong that I didn't want to pay for EVERYTHING while my niece visited? 

Dear Jay,
I offered for my niece to come visit. I paid for the airline ticket. I at no time insinuated that I would take care of any other financial means once she was here. My sister called the night before and said she expected me to pay her way with all that she did while she was here. I explained I was not doing that. Her plane ticket was the gift, but she was expected to take care of everything else. My niece is 18 and has known since April that she would be coming in August.

My sister told me to use the travel insurance because my niece was not coming because she didn't have any money. I tried dealing with the insurance, but her not coming was not a valid excuse.

I am appalled that this gift came with those expectations. Is it not right that the guest visiting pays their own way?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Financial arrangements, especially within families need to be completely worked out in advance. Making assumptions is dangerous as you now know. Travel insurance should allow cancellation for any reason. If it doesn’t, you’re not in a strong position. Advising you not to make this mistake again is unlikely necessary. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Sister-in-law Encroaching on Family Vacation

Is it wrong of my sister-in-law to take her vacation at the same time and place as mine? 

Dear Jay,
I planned a vacation with my sister's family, which I don't get to see them often because they live on the other side of the country, and was looking forward to my children getting to know their cousins and enjoying some family time with them. I now just found out that my sister-in-law just booked the same vacation spot during the same week that we will be there. 

I am frustrated because she knew I booked this vacation to spend some quality time with my side of the family, but now she will be with her family just two cabins down from us. I don't get to see my family much and I just wanted my kids to get to know my niece and nephew and spend some quality time with them. But now that my sister-in-law will be there, I feel obligated (and awkward if I don't) to spend time with them. I'm mad because now I can't have alone time with my family and she just happened to book the same week as we did, knowing we'd be there. 

Shouldn't she have asked us or at least told us that she was planning to book a vacation at the same spot, on the same week and at least asked if that would be okay. I feel she is pushing her way into our vacation and she should have asked if it was okay! Am I wrong?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are wrong. This is not a private retreat you’re going to. If it makes you mad, you need to look at that emotion. Just because you can’t have your own way, doesn’t mean anyone has done anything wrong. It means you have some control issues. Why not reconsider your position? Maybe this will all turn out much better than you ever expected. Maybe you can find another time for a private bonding experience if it means that much to you. Your feelings are certainly valid, but they are causing you stress. Any thoughts that are causing you stress should be questioned. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Cousins Planning Service vs. Brothers

Would it be appropriate for cousins to plan a funeral if our cousin's brothers won't? 

Dear Jay,
My cousin passed away Last month. He suffered from schizophrenia and had not been heard from for several years. He died in a homeless camp. His mother, who is deceased spent many hours searching for him to no avail.

The authorities somehow contacted 1 of his 2 older brothers. They never told any of the other family that he had died. We found out a week later on a Facebook posting by a friend of one of his nieces.

His brothers are not planning a funeral service or memorial service.

Is it wrong for us cousins to plan a memorial service ourselves?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is totally fine for you to plan a memorial service. What a lovely idea. This is one of the tragedies of homelessness. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Presents after Divorce

Do I need to get my brother-in-law a birthday present now that he is no longer married to my sister? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and former brother-in-law are divorced. He has custody of the kids and his birthday and my nephew's are only a day apart. What is the etiquette on a birthday present for him?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your relationship with your former brother-in-law is between you and him. If you want to give him a gift, feel free. The choice is entirely yours. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Father-in-law bugging Son-in-law

How do I address my father-in-law when it seems he doesn't understand how much is insistence on calling my son "his boy" irritates me? 

Dear Jay,
Over the past 6 years, I have been having conversations with both my wife and her father regarding what her father calls my son.  He feels it is perfectly acceptable to call my son "his boy" even though I have mentioned that it is disrespectful to me numerous times.  It is now at the point where he will call him "his boy" behind my back when he thinks I can not hear him.  My frustration has now turned to anger and I do not know how to handle this.  My wife says that she talks to him, but seems to allow it as long as I am not around.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Perhaps what you need to do is to speak with your father in law and explain to him why calling him “his boy” is disrespectful and annoying to you. There is more here than meets the eye. This seems like a rather trivial matter as you have explained it, and so for it to escalate into anger is a puzzlement. Whatever is behind your anger needs to be uncovered and understood. A session with a family therapist might be fruitful if the answer remains elusive. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Cheap Labor

Is it unfair that my parents are paying our college student way less than they pay a professional lawn service? 

Dear Jay,
My mother and father pay a service to do their garden clean-up every Spring and their weekly mowing. They pay more than $200 for the clean-up service. This year they offered our student who is a college student the job of clean-up. After he worked in very cold weather because they wanted it done right away, they only offered him $25. Nothing has changed in their financial situation. I feel like I should tell them he was expecting to receive at least $200. We all know what they normally pay.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a matter for your parents and the student to settle. This is actually should not be your concern. Financial matters should always be discussed and settled before the work is done. If you had said anything to the student about the amount of pay, you need to clear this up. However, the rate of pay is not for you to determine. Typically students and lawn services are not paid at the same rate for obvious reasons. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Speak English, please

Is it rude for my husband and brother-in-law to speak in Spanish all the time together when in my home even if I don't understand them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband speaks Spanish and English. When one of his brothers comes over to our place, they exclude me and even if his wife comes we are excluded, too. I’m not sure if they realize it is rude to do that and it seems like they are hiding something. They do work together sometimes but still. If his wife is not there, I have left the room or if I am in my room and I hear him coming into the apartment I stay in my bedroom. I had heard, also, from my niece, his daughter, that he does not like me so then I should avoid him if I am able to. I want to confront this issue with him, but that would affect my niece’s trust since her dad did not tell me himself. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Speak to your husband about your concerns. It is rude for people to speak in a foreign tongue when with strangers for exactly the reason you state. As far as him not liking you, that may be untrue. There is certainly no reason for you to feel like a stranger in your own house, so clear this up with your husband. House rule - when you are present, please speak in English. Occasionally there will be thoughts or concepts that they may feel are expressed better in Spanish. So be flexible. Have you considered learning Spanish? It’s an easy language and a beautiful one, too. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

It's None of Your Business

How do I handle my mother-in-law being nosy and judgmental?about my side of the family? 

Dear Jay,
Why does my mother in law continuously wants to know what's happening on my side of the family's life? She's very judgmental, so I don't like telling her much. Would it be rude to tell her it's none of her business?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL may be lonely. That does not give her license to cross personal boundaries. I would use the phrase “I’m uncomfortable discussing this with you as it’s none of my business.” She should get the idea that if it’s none of your business, it’s certainly none of hers. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Overly dramatic mother-in-law

Should I be expected to celebrate every major occasion with my mother-in-law and include a cake and presents with each? 

Dear Jay,
My mother in law expects me to celebrate her birthday, mother's day, grandparents day, and other major holidays with her. When I forgot her birthday in the past and called her with my husband (her son) 2 days later, she cried and made a big drama. We got some harsh criticism from her side of family. After that, we have to buy her gifts, cake, and buy lunch/dinner on her special events. Some of my friends just call their MIL and everything seems fine. I wonder if I just can phone call or send cards for those events. I prefer stress free. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL is way out of line. Put yourself in her shoes (complaining about such events), and imagine how you would feel about yourself. I would feel kind of stupid and petty. The fact that you got flack from other family members shows what a grip this woman has on the whole family. There is no need to buckle under this bullying tactic. A card and a phone call (on time) is sufficient. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

New Sister-in-Law Adds Too Many To Family Vacation

Should I tell my in-laws that I'm uncomfortable with my new sister-in-law inviting her sister to our long standing family vacation? 

Dear Jay,

My extended family (I'm the daughter in law) have vacationed together for several years now. We have a great time and have really found a nice balance of personalities. My husband has a few siblings and all were unmarried till now. My brother in laws new wife will be joining the fold this year as will their baby, adding to the dynamics of a group vacation and I'm excited to see it grow, and looking forward to bonding with her in a deeper level. She would like to invite her sister. 

I love the idea of mixing families for holidays and things but vacation is another story. In all honesty, I feel like it should remain this side of the family’s vacation. First adding three new people to a nice going routine could really change things in a good or bad way. Second I feel it sets a precedent. When all of the siblings marry, do their in laws join too? 

I have no personal issues with her sister though I don't know her well, I just think it's so odd that she would consider inviting her to a long established vacation. I would not invite my family, nor would I consider doing that, even though I've been going on this trip since its inception. 

Should I just let out go and hope for the best and hope that any other in laws that join the fold don't invite their family too or do I bring it up in the planning meeting?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is very simple. Someone is paying for this vacation. If it is your in-laws, they control the guest list. Any decisions go through them. If it is a group vacation where everyone pays their own way, then a meeting of everyone who’s paying needs to take place and any additions considered at that time. I understand your concerns, and I also think it will all work out. If you want to have a small getaway with a select few people at some other time of the year, that’s your prerogative. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Dad Doesn't Want a Baby in the House

How do I deal with my father not wanting me to bring an adopted baby home? 

Dear Jay,

I live with my father who is a control freak. He's been having issues paying bills, taxes, etc. and I have paid him money each week to help. Here's my dilemma: a friend of mine is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and has offered the baby to me. I brought this up to my father out of respect and he said he didn't care what I chose to do. 

Well, now that I've signed guardianship papers and have paid money to the lawyer he says no baby is coming to his house. He went as far as lying to a priest to make himself look good. He said if this baby moves into his house it makes him responsible,  but it doesn't since I'm the primary caregiver.  This baby will be here in May whether he likes it or not. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can make this a smooth transition for all. It will only be a few months since I'm moving before the next school year starts in September.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You will clearly need the matter cleared before the baby arrives. I suggest that you speak with the adoption agency or a social worker. One or the other should be involved for the safety of the child. Your lawyer knows this. Your father is not going to be a positive influence in this situations things stand. Consider moving earlier, even it means moving in with someone else, hopefully a maternal figure. You are doing a wonderful thing by adopting this child. Now get things started on the right foot. Your father is not your responsibility. This child is. Make sure everything you do keeps the child’s best interests ahead of everyone else’s - including yours. If this proves to be too much for you to handle, you may need to foster the child out temporarily, but this would not be the best choice. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Friend Not Invited

Is it rude for me to tell my friend that she isn't invited on a trip she invited herself to? 

Dear Jay,

In a casual conversation with a friend I mentioned that my husband and I were planning a trip to go see my daughter and son-in law for the first time since they moved across country. This friend has invited herself to go along on this trip. I think it's wrong that she even did this, but how do I tell her we would prefer to go alone or is that just as rude?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not just as rude. Your friend is in the wrong here. You really owe her no explanation other than no, sorry, that won’t work for us. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Daughter's Dog and Additional Guests Not Welcome

How can I get the message across to my daughter that I don't want her to bring her dogs or invite other friends and their dogs to stay at my home? 

Dear Jay,

My adult daughter in her mid thirties and her high-energy bulldog live two hours from us. When she visits she stay one or two nights for a weekend and brings her dog. We also have a 90 pound house dog.

In the past she has invited and brought a friend with her and also the friends dog. She just informed me she will be coming for Easter and once again bringing a friend and her dog to also stay. How do I handle this?  

When I say something she gets angry and doesn't see what the big deal is.  Her response was "I don't tell you not to bring your dog to my house". I tried to tell her I don't invite my friends and their dogs to her home.My husband doesn't like to "rock the boat" and doesn't like for me to either.

How do I handle this with her?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Not rocking the boat has resulted in a daughter who has no respect for you or your household. Somewhere along the line neither you nor your husband taught her that your home is your castle and that the house rules that you set are the ones everyone follows. You will need to explain this to her. She has every right to set her own house rules in her own house. This will be especially helpful to her when she begins raising a family of her own. Having said that, if the dogs all get along and there is no issue with any personalities, it is difficult to see why you would not welcome your daughter home with her friends with open arms. You have no idea how many people would cherish the opportunity to spend Easter, or any holiday, with their family. If this is simply a matter of control, set some house rules, but make them based on safety. For example, please be sure to clean up after your dog poops in the yard might be a rule. I hope this helps. 

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Baby Shower for Military Wife

What do I call a book baby shower for my daughter who will be visiting us for the first time in 2 years with her 7 month old son?

Dear Jay,
My daughter is a military wife, she is coming home to visit after being gone for almost 2 years. She is bringing with her her 7 month old son. She was never given a baby shower nor did many people (especially family members) even send a card or gift. I am planning a get together at a nice little hall and will be providing snacks and drinks for an afternoon visit for all who come.  I am sending invitations and have asked them to bring a child's book and to write something in the cover, sign and date it for the baby. My daughter has started him a nice book library and I thought that would be something nice to add to it. My question is what do I call this event?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  How about Welcome Home or Welcome to (name of town) or Welcome to the Family or Family Celebration. What a lovely idea. Have a wonderful event! I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

No Sisters-In-Law on Family Trip

How do we tell my sisters-in-law that we are planning a trip but do no want them to come along?

Dear Jay,
My mom and sisters want to start going on an annual vacation, but don't want to invite our two sister-in-laws. We think they are going to be upset, however because they speak their minds quite often. We think it would be better to tell them on the forefront instead of just having them find out some other way. Do you have any thoughts on how to go about telling them? Or a response to have if they do end up getting mad?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There should be no rules about who vacations with whom within an extended family. I think family traditions are healthy, even new ones. Everything starts somewhere, sometime, right? Anyone who disagrees is certainly entitled to their opinion, but they should keep it to themselves. Therefore you owe them no explanation. Do seriously consider doing something fun with your in laws, too. Balance in a family helps make for smooth sailing. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Both Grandparents Visiting at Once

Who do we permit to visit when both grandparents request to see their grandchild at the same time?

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette in handling the situation when one grandparent on the mother's side is visiting and another grandparent on the father's side wants to see the grandchild at the same time? The grandparent on the mother's side lives in a different state and the grandparent on the father's side lives in the same town. It has happened several times.

How do you handle all the hurt feelings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is no need for hurt feelings. Invite both grandparents over together. These are happy times, not times for arguing and oneupmanship. And remember that anything that you say or do in front of the baby is absorbed like a sponge. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

No Communication

When we go out to eat, who should my husband seat first? 

Dear Jay,
Is it ok for your spouse to have their parent come live with you without having a discussion?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In a word, no. Learning to communicate is crucial to building a sustainable relationship. Spouses must develop this skill or risk a failed marriage. Be sure you make it clear that there are house rules, and everyone must honour, respect and follow them. And, no more unilateral decisions! I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Seating Mother and Wife in a Restaurant

When we go out to eat, who should my husband seat first? 

Dear Jay,
Is it proper etiquette, or perhaps simply respectful, for my husband to seat his mother before me when we are at a restaurant?  And in the same token, should I wait for him to then seat me(out of respect for him), or can I go on ahead and sit myself?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your husband is correct in seating his mother prior to seating you because a) she’s older, and b) she more of a ‘guest’ than you. You can either seat yourself or wait a few seconds for him to seat you, especially if he is likely to offer. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Intimidated by Husband's Family

Is it wrong of me to decline invitations from my husband's large family even if they intimidate me? 

Dear Jay,
My husband has a very large extended family comprised of many cousins (some who are closer to him than others). Occasionally I receive invitations to baby and wedding showers from then. I feel intimidated by these people and they certainly don't know me. Is it in bad taste to not go to the showers?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It is not in bad taste to regret any invitation. However, hopefully you have a long life ahead of you with this family, and getting to know them gradually will be a benefit. I suggest you speak with your husband about these feelings of intimidation and perhaps he can introduce you to the “easiest” ones first. Getting to know people can be challenging. Take baby steps. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Aunt's Creepy New Husband To Be

How do I tell my aunt that her new husband to be is not welcome in my home and I do not want my daughters around him ever? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my Aunt that I don't want my daughters in her wedding or around her soon to be husband? My aunt is mentally challenged and so is her soon to be husband. They are both using each other. She's using him to help pay her bills, and he's using her for a place to live. I don't care about this; they are adults. My problem is that he creeps me out by the way he stares at my young daughters (2 & 4). He's also dirty and smells terrible. He's never done anything to any one that I know of, but my gut feeling warning bells ring very loudly whenever he's around. 

He also takes any chance he gets to tell my children what to do. He will repeat things I say to my girls immediately after I say it to them. (Ex: I say "girls don't jump on the couch" and before they can even react he's running over to them yelling "STOP jumping on the couch!" In my own home.) This whole wedding thing is a circus. She wanted the bridesmaids and flower girls to wear pant suits and the groomsmen to wear dresses because her fiance likes to wear women's clothes. She can't decide on her colors and the wedding is only a couple months away. How do I tell her I'm not comfortable having my children in her wedding as it’s not being taken as a serious commitment, but as a fun dress up game? Also how do I tell her I don't want her soon to be husband around my children or at my house?



Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is very simple. If you feel intuitively that your children may be facing a safety risk, tell your aunt your daughters will not be in the wedding and exactly how you feel. Honesty is the best policy. Secondly, do not invite your aunt and her fiance to your house, ever. Have no feelings of guilt. Just keep your children away from them. This is potentially very serious. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Grandparents Paying for Grandson's College

Is it wrong that my husband's parents only pay for their oldest grandson to go to college but don't pay for our other children? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's parents are paying for his son (my step-son) to go to college.  However, they are not paying for our children (mine and husband's children) to go to college. I told my husband, if they will not be helping out financially for all of our children, they should not help out only the oldest and we should not accept the money.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your in-laws are free to do as they please with their money. You are in the wrong. Be grateful for their generosity. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law Uses Toiletries When Visiting

Is it disgusting that my mother-in-law uses my toiletries when she visits, or should I just let her use them because she is family? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong to not want my husband's mother using my hairbrush, toothpaste and reordering my things when visiting? I think it's disgusting. He says were family.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is a matter of personal choice. If you do not want anyone sharing your toiletries, be firm. Your husband needs to be more respectful, so don’t back down. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Need a Night Off From Mom

How do I tell my mother, who now lives with us, that we want to have friends over and we want her to stay in a hotel for the evening? 

Dear Jay,
My mother moved in with my husband and me a year ago. She really has no other place to go and doesn't have many friends or activities to keep her busy.  My husband and I would like to host a dinner party for some friends, but do not want my mother around. She sits around in a house coat and can be somewhat rude. I think she would eat dinner with us and probably go to bed early. Is it wrong to ask her to stay in a hotel for one night? My husband and I would certainly pay for the hotel. I don't want to upset her or make her feel unwelcome, but I also don't want to make our friends feel like they have to leave early or be quiet because they don't want to wake her. Any advice on how to approach my mother on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I hope there was some sort of understanding between you and your husband and your mother about how your mother would fit into your household. If your mother is essentially a guest in your house, then giving her a night or two in a nice hotel would be a real treat for her (and for you). If this scenario has never been discussed, let alone experienced, then it may be awkward. My hunch is that she’ll welcome a change of scenery, too. This act is out of respect for her privacy and for your own respect as well. If she protests, let her know that if she stays, she is more than welcome, but that she also is clear that she has no leg to stand on if things upset her. Give her a couple of days to digest this concept. Time can be magical. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Addict Child Doesn't Show Up

What should I do about my daughter who has addiction issues and never shows up when she's invited to family functions? 

Dear Jay,
My 28 year old daughter has addiction issues. She is frequently invited to family functions. but doesn't arrive.  She then complains about family withdrawing from her. Why does she do this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Addicts live in a very different world, riddled with fear, among other things. I would suggest you speak with her therapist if you can. I would also suggest that you engage the services of a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction and look at this as a family problem. Whether she attends a party or not is hardly a priority, but it can be indicative of a more serious problem. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Rude Sister-in-Law

Am I being too critical by wanting my sister-in-law to not make herself so at home when she comes to visit? 

Dear Jay,
I have concerns in regards to my sister in law. The first being that my husband and I purchased a home 3 years ago and we recently began furnishing it. When my sister in law comes over she sits with her feet (shoes on) on our new sofas and her children do the same. My husband has asked the kids to please put their feet down in hopes my sister in law will get the hint, but it doesn’t seem to help. It gets frustrating because we work hard and would like our furniture to last is a while.

Also, my sister in law tends to really make herself at home when she visits. She will take over the kitchen, feed herself and her family , use the washer and dryer , use all sorts of dishes and all without asking, and at times I am stuck cleaning up a mess a didn't make. Am I being too picky? Growing up I was taught you always ask before you do anything. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a simple matter of communication and respect. Your SIL has no respect for your house or for you. Putting feet on furniture, especially with shoes on is rude and basic bad manners. I would simply tell them in no uncertain terms to keep their dirty feet off the furniture. Embarrass them if need be. As to her using your house as her own, your husband should explain to her that she’s a guest in your home when she and the kids come over and not to just feel free to help herself to anything without asking. If you do not show respect for yourselves, no one else will either. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Bringing Wine

Do I need to bring a bottle of wine to every event that I am invited to attend? 

Dear Jay,
Whenever there is an informal family gathering/dinner/BBQ/whatever, is it obligatory that I bring a bottle of wine? Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is never obligatory to bring a bottle of wine, unless custom dictates that it’s a BYOB arrangement, which is actually growing in popularity. In that case, you’d be drinking the wine you bring. If you bring it as a hostess gift, it’s not for you to consume. I do think you ought to bring something to everything you go to. It does not, however, need to be a bottle of wine. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Not Invited

Is it okay that my wife's uncle invited himself to come along on our family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
My wife's uncle invited himself on holiday with our family and my kids. My wife thinks it's fine to have anyone join on a family holiday. I think it's rude, disrespectful and audacious! What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I agree with you! Family vacations should be planned ideally by everyone involved. And trust me, no one invites themselves anywhere, ever! They are either invited by the host or they aren’t. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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No Warm Greetings

Is it rude of my son-in-law not to greet me when I go to his house? 

Dear Jay,
My son-in-law never comes out of his man cave to greet me when I come over. I feel he should at least shout out a “HELLO.” My daughter defends him, saying I am not there to see him.

Which of us is correct?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds as though your daughter invited you over, in which case she is the host and he has no obligation. If you just popped over, he is definitely off the hook. Whatever he is doing does not matter. He did not extend an invitation and so he does not have to come out. However, it is discourteous not to welcome all people into your house upon their arrival. But with family, rules are more flexible. I am siding with your daughter this time. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Divorced Dad Hurt Over Son's Absence at Thanksgiving

Is it wrong of me to want my youngest son to spend Thanksgiving with my girlfriend, her family and me? 

Dear Jay,
I am a divorced father of 3 boys, 27, 25, and 19. I have been divorced for about 5 years and have been living with my girlfriend for 3 years. My oldest lives in California, so he misses a lot of family get togethers (but always calls,etc). My middle son went to Aruba with his mom, her friends, and his girlfriend during Thanksgiving (he got engaged there). So I expected to see my youngest son on Thanksgiving, since he was on break from school. I invited him to join me at my girlfriend's cousin's house for dinner. He refused, claiming that they weren't his family. I reasoned to him that I was his family and that should be enough. He insisted that he wasn't going because he would be uncomfortable. He knows my girl's family and they have always treated him well. It was really only 3 other people besides us. Now my girlfriend is insulted and I feel frustrated, ashamed, disappointed, etc. because my son wouldn't spend the holiday with me. 

I have always been close to my boys, but since the divorce I feel like my youngest son blames me. We have become more and more distant since. Because my girlfriend has become my extended family, shouldn't my son accept them also, or at the very least, be a little uncomfortable to spend time with his father on Thanksgiving? I have dealt with being uncomfortable many times to spend time with him around his mother's friends. I am not an absent father - I attend every event my sons are involved in: graduations, birthdays, sports, etc. I've hosted parties for them (and invited their mom), celebrated achievements with them, and call them to check on them. All I wanted was to have my son with me on Thanksgiving. What's the problem with that?

P.S. My girlfriend is very supportive in all of this and welcomes them into our home at all times.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your youngest son is understandably upset, confused, angry, feeling abandoned, and any number of other emotions that bring rise to fear in his life. He is very likely not rejecting your invitation because he wants to inflict pain on you and your girlfriend. This really has nothing to do with you two, and you need to understand that. This is about a very frightened young man whose world has been torn apart by you and his mother. He needs compassion and love. He does not need to be handed a guilt trip and be blamed for anything. You will lose your relationship with him entirely if you continue to badger him and place unfair pressure on him to attend functions. Just because your other sons are not around for you, for whatever reason, that does not make it appropriate to make this young man responsible for your feelings. You need to sit down with him, both you and your girlfriend, and be as understanding and supportive as you can be. He is frightened and wounded. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Son Wants Mom To Back Off

Is it okay for my son to tell me that I need to give my daughter-in-law her space with her family even though they all stay with me when the visit? 

Dear Jay,
My son and daughter-in-law live with me and her mother is visiting at my house from out of town. My son suggested that I let his wife and mother-in-law enjoy quality time alone and I not join them. Her mom and dad always stay at our house when they visit. I was offended at that suggestion.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Have a chat with your son to find out what the intention was behind his suggestion. Never give anyone the power to offend you. You are a very generous woman, and I fully understand your not liking to be told how to behave in your own house. But everyone likes their private moments. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Imposing Step-son Needs to Learn Boundaries

How do I respond to my step-son's request that seems like more of a demand to stay with me? 

Dear Jay,
I am shocked that he had the audacity to propose this. My 45 year old stepson from another state with the resources to pay his own way called to say "I was thinking I would take my 6 week vacation and bring my roommate to stay with you. I know you have the room so we should be there the last two weeks of September and all of November.” How do I respond?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I’d be shocked, too. I wonder where he learned this behavior? It should be very easy to reject his proposal in a kindly way, but in a way so that he doesn’t try it again. If he is 45, you likely are close to 70. If he doesn’t appreciate the imposition this poses, it’s time he learns. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Extra Guests At Family's Holiday Dinner

Do I need to say to extra guests for our family's holiday dinner? 

Dear Jay,
Is it inappropriate for a family member to ask to bring a guy she’s been dating for three months and his kids, to family holiday dinner?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not inappropriate, but the request does not have to be honored. It is always the host who decides on the guest list, not one of the guests. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Decision to Visit Dying Sister

Do I spend the money and time to go visit my estranged dying sister? 

Dear Jay,
I have 2 sisters. There is no other family. One of them is being treated for stage 4 cancer in another country. Her treatments and emotions are roller coaster like. My other healthy sister just spent a week with our sick sister. She phoned me and told me that I have to go and see her right away. I said no. We have never been close. They are twins and I am 1 year younger. We have never connected in the way that I desired sisters should. I have always been closer to friends than my sisters.  

It will take 2 days each way to fly there and will be expensive. My sister only ever talks about herself. She has never shown any interest in me or my family. We've gone for years without speaking.

Should I take a week out of my life to go and see her because she might be dying?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your relationship with your sister is yours and yours alone. It is totally your choice if you want to go or not. Your other sister is entitled to her opinion, but she cant make you go. Perhaps she was just giving you information. Follow your heart. Do what feels right to you. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Uneasy About Girlfriend Traveling With Her Ex

How do I handle my girlfriend traveling with her ex for their son's team? 

Dear Jay,
My girlfriend has to go out of town with her son’s father for her son’s traveling team game. How do I handle this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You must trust that they will behave appropriately and support their son as parents must do. If you have uneasy feelings about this, you need to clear these up with your girlfriend. Open communication, especially about something like this, is very, very important. Your relationship hinges on open and honest communications. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Giving up the Master Bedroom for Guests

Should I give up my bedroom with en-suite bathroom for my in-laws when they come to visit? 

Dear Jay,
I'm recently divorced and still on relatively good terms with my ex and in-laws. My in-laws are visiting from out of town and they want to stay with me for a couple of days while my kids are with me which is fine, but do I need to give them my master bedroom with the bathroom?   There is a guest bedroom upstairs and they would need to share the bathroom with my two kids.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You do not need to give up your bedroom. Although this is considered gracious by some people, I am totally against it. Your hospitality is more than sufficient. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Aunt's Unequal Treatment Hurts

Should I be offended that my aunt takes both of my sisters on cruises and trips and never takes me? 

Dear Jay,
I'm the oldest of 3 sisters, now in my early 30's. I have 2 sisters, one and 5 years younger.  My dad's only sister was always around growing up.  She always stressed that it was important for things to be even, meaning if one got something, the other 2 got a little something also. I realized as I got older, around the time of puberty she seemed to care less for me. I would write her notes and thank you's for any gifts (something the other 2 never did). The only difference is they are her "God children" and she is an over zealous born again Christian. 

About 10 years ago my Aunt started traveling - cruises, and trips across the country. She took my youngest sister on a cruise (all expenses paid) and then cross country. I was excited for them. Then my aunt took my other sister on an all expense paid cruise in Mexico. That one stung a little more. Maybe the book of photos she gave me from their trip was a little insulting. Then she took my youngest sister on a different cruise. 

My dad passed away a little under 2 years ago and she took my younger sister around the funeral home introducing her to everyone as her cruise buddy right in front of me. To make matters a little worse before my father passed we were at his house hanging out in the kitchen, sisters and aunt at the table while I helped with the dishes as she cheerfully announced, "I just loved going on cruises with you girls, my cruise buddies.”  In a moment of being completely uncomfortable I said "Oh thanks" with a little laugh and her face just dropped and she started telling me all the reasons she knew I wouldn't be able to go.  

When I told her I actually would have had no problem, she changed the subject. Her gifts to me got more and more generic and I'm at the point I know she doesn't care for me (it's a trend among women of our family, but when you’re the scapegoat it's who you are). I know we're not close anymore but it still hurts.  I'm beginning to believe it's supposed to.  The photos from yet another cruise with my sister were sent to me after I told them not to worry about souvenirs (last minute gifts purchased at the airport on the way home) or postcards to help spare myself the pain of having it rubbed in.  It hurts. I don't dwell on it anymore, but every time I think about it I feel so sad. She's a grown woman that can do what she pleases with whomever she pleases, but does it seem a little off to you?  She was the one that made such a big deal about things being even. I feel little connection to her or my sisters anymore.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There appears to be a breakdown in communication here. I suggest you pick up the phone and have a chat with your aunt explaining how her actions make you feel. I would also suggest that your feelings and reactions to what people may do or say are your responsibility. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “no one can insult you without your permission”. This means that if people hurt you, it is because you allow them to. In essence you give them the power to decide if you will be happy or not. It’s time to take that power back. To do this, I recommend that you reach out to your aunt and to your sisters and form stronger connections, perhaps restoring connections that have weakened over the years. As human beings, we cannot escape the realm of feelings. Your feelings are absolutely valid, but only you can change them. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Cousin Excluded From Trips

How do I deal with my cousin inviting other family members but not inviting me on trips? 

Dear Jay,
How do I handle a cousin who didn't invite me on a trip but invited my mother, brother, sister and her husband. This is becoming a habit of hers, planning trips with me than later canceling or making up an excuse. But, she would go on the trips with other family members after she cancelled with me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I suggest that you have a conversation with your cousin privately and explain to her how her actions make you feel. Hopefully she can explain what is going on. She may not realize she is even doing this. Either way, if you want a clearer understanding, you need to communicate with her. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Overbearing Mother-in-law Wants Her Way

How do I deal with my mother-in-law's childish behavior when it comes to our son? 

Dear Jay,
I have been married for ten years and never had a negative encounter with my mother-in-law until my son was born three years ago. Since that time, she and I have had multiple confrontations. The latest (and recurring) crisis is that she wants to buy our son a motorized miniature ATV that she would keep at her house for his visits. 

This request has come up before, and we kindly declined the offer saying that we don't approve of such extravagant toys for children. We prefer simplicity and nature. We suggested that she get him a bicycle and training wheels instead. Now she's furious. She told my husband (her son) that we are taking away her joy and that she does so much for us that we are being selfish by not letting her have the joy of buying big presents for him.  

I'm at a loss. Even as we suggested other gifts that would be appropriate and that he would love, she refused entirely. Now there is tension between us--in addition to the new knowledge that apparently all of the generous things she's done for us and given us are now being held over our heads as a point of guilt.

How can I find a resolution here?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your mother in law is a bully. Your husband needs to explain to her that your children will be raised as you see fit, and that if she cannot accept this, her visits with your children will be limited. Placing her ability to be happy on your shoulders is completely inappropriate. There is clearly a void in her life, which is not your responsibility. This may also be her way of holding power over you. Do not allow this. If you do not put an end to this, things will only get worse. You, too, are well within your rights to lay down the law. By showing that you have respect for yourself, she should come to regain respect for you as well. This is akin to "your home is your castle". If she doesn’t like the rules, she is not welcome. This may sound harsh, but your family unit will be far stronger if you stick to your guns. Your husband and you must act as a unified force here. She will do everything she can to have things her way. How your son is raised is your responsibility, not hers. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Married Woman Sits Next to my Husband

Am I being overly sensitive or is it wrong that a married woman sits next to my husband all the time when I am not around? 

Dear Jay,
For the past two years my husband and I have been going out to dinner with our children and another married couple and their children after school sports games. Since this school year I have been unable to go to my son’s games because my other daughter is playing another sport and I go with her instead. My husband continues having dinner with our friends after the soccer games. 

Lately they have been joined by another of the children's friend and his mom, and although she is married her husband doesn't go with her to the after game dinner. I have found out that she always sits with my husband! When I have the chance to go to one of the dinners then she sits with the other married women.  

My personal morals tell me that she should sit with the other married women. I know if I was alone, I would make a point to sit with the married women vs. the men.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There is no protocol for married women who are dining without their husbands and whom they may sit beside. In my opinion your moral compass may be overly sensitive. I think that by her sitting with the other ladies when you are present shows that she is respectful of you. Where you sit in any given situation is your choice. Many of us are raised with different cultural nuances. None are more correct than another. I see nothing out of line here. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Mother-In-Law's Intrusions

How do I get my mother-in-law to understand that sometimes we just need family time without her? 

Dear Jay,
Should I tell my mother-in-law that her unannounced visits when she was expressly told not to come or wasn't invited are rude?  Or am I being too sensitive?

She is a wonderful grandmother and I enjoy our time with her, but she can be sneaky and manipulative when she wants her way and you don't give it to her.

For example, when we had our now 4 month old daughter we asked that everyone please give us two weeks with no company so we could adjust to life with a newborn. I didn't want to have to worry about entertaining guests while dealing with breastfeeding problems and sleep deprivation. Yet she showed up unannounced and uninvited half way through the second week. And I couldn't just turn her away because she drove an hour and 45 minutes. She didn't like that we told her she had to stay away so rather than respect our wishes she pulled a childish stunt to get her way. She showed up just before our daughter's first check up hoping to tag along but we went without her and left her at the apartment. She ignored our wishes so I paid her in kind hoping she would get the message.

She always gets weepy and says she just misses us so much and she's missing out on the girls growing up, but this didn't start until the birth of our second daughter. Our first daughter is mine from my first marriage and though my mother-in-law always says she couldn't love her more if she were her own it feels like maybe that's not entirely true.  She has been foaming at the mouth since my third trimester: hounding us for pics and texting constantly.

She uses that missing us as an excuse for rude behavior (like crashing our family weekends by showing up at the restaurant where we plan to go unannounced and uninvited), but she was supposed to be visiting us and the girls the following two weekends so I don't buy it.  She just doesn’t like being excluded.  She takes our family time as a personal challenge to crash.  My husband and I are rather reclusive to begin with, but we host them and go see them constantly. It wears us out, but we do it because family is so important to us. I don't think wanting some alone time once every 3 months is too much to ask.

How can I tell her how I feel without hurting her or our relationship? I love her very much and she is so wonderful except for this very rude and selfish behavior she has been exhibiting lately. I can't understand it because we are so generous with our girls, our home and our time. It really hurts that she is doing this.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My instincts tell me that your MIL is reaching out to make connections. Perhaps she is lonely, or perhaps she is simply being human. You and your husband need to come up with some house rules, especially around unannounced visits, etc. People will not respect you unless you show them you have respect for yourselves. Be firm but not emotional. Perhaps your husband could speak with his mother and uncover what these intrusions are all about. Being honest with someone should not jeopardize a friendship or a relationship if there is a true bond. What we often forget is that we must take responsibility for our own upset. Taking responsibility relieves others of blame and feelings of guilt and places you in a position of power to maintain calm. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Partner's Nephew No Longer Welcome

How do I convince my partner that his sister and her son are taking advantage of us? 

Dear Jay,
My partner’s nephew came to live with us during his senior year of high school because he thought that he would get more exposure in basketball and secure a scholarship. After actually seeing him play, we realized that he was embellishing his ability and was not very good. From the beginning we told his mother that he could stay, only if she assumed ALL financial responsibility for him, as we already have one teenage son and could not financially support another at this time.  

Needless to say, his mother did not hold up her end of the bargain for the entire school year, and acted as if we were somehow wrong for asking her to support her OWN child. When the basketball season was over in February, we told him that he needed to get an after school job. School is out at 1:15 and we did not want him just sitting around our house doing nothing.  

Instead of finding a job, he found a group of friends that he hung out with daily until late in the night during the week, and sometimes 3 or 4 in the morning on the weekends. I told my partner that once school was out that he had to go back to his mom's house - which is out of state. He somehow manipulated that situation with his mom and my partner and ended up staying for the summer - not working - just hanging out with friends. I dealt with it knowing that the end was near. He was accepted into a college here in the city and we told his mother that he could absolutely not stay with us and that she must secure a room on campus for him. 

Thinking, that they would manipulate the situation again, she missed the deadline for campus housing and his room was not available when school started. When she saw that we wouldn't give in, she then comes here and takes him to a school two hours away and is able to get him in. I told both his mother and my partner that he is not welcome for school breaks, and/or the summer. Now, they are asking if he can stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks because his mother lives on the other side of the country and can't afford plane tickets.  

How is this my problem?? His mother would NEVER do for us with our child what we are doing for her. He is not an asset to our household. His mother does not contribute financially. He does not help out by at least cleaning, taking out the trash, walking the dog, etc. Am I being too harsh for demanding that he go back home to his mother on school breaks?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You and your partner need to have chat and come to some agreement as to terms under which his nephew can visit. Come up with house rules, including chores, if necessary. Your partner will then impart this information to his sister and he can deal with her. But remember that you and he must first agree on the terms and you must have one another’s back and don’t give in to her. Perhaps you will come to understand that this dynamic is a generational thing in his family. Being flexible and inclusive around holidays is important though. Have compassion and gratitude. No one knows how many more holidays we have to celebrate. Enjoy them while you can. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Brother's In-Laws are Not My Family, Too

Is it wrong of me not to want to invite my brother's in-law's to our holiday gatherings? 

Dear Jay,
What is the etiquette around in-law families and the holidays? My brother considers his wife's family as his, as he rightly should. However, I do not consider them my family, though they've been married for 15 years. I declined an offer to go to my sister in-law's mother's house for Thanksgiving. He responded by asking if my sister in-law's mom, her husband, her sister, her husband and their baby could come to my house for Christmas Eve, as he'd like all of the family to be together for the holidays. At the same time, I was neither invited to my sister-in-law’s sister's wedding nor baby shower. That's totally fine with me, but my point is that we are not close. What is the etiquette around this please?  Thanks!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The etiquette is that the host controls the guest list. Anyone can host a party and invite whomever they want. It’s what hosts do; it’s not what guests do. He’s asked you an inappropriate question. An unemotional answer would be appropriate. Holding firm shows that you have respect for yourself. That said, I would consider stretching your flexibility during the holidays and be more inclusive than less so. Who knows, once you get to know your extended family, you may come to like them. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Truck Miscommunication Leads to Family Strife

How do we tell my brother that he has to pay for the car that he traded to my girlfriend if he wants it back? 

Dear Jay,
My girlfriend and I live in a home with my twin brother. Through some events about a year ago (before we all lived together), he traded her his truck for a four wheeler that I had purchased for her as a birthday gift. She just recently got a different car, and we were going to sell the truck on Craigslist. However, he is now without transportation and my girlfriend is willing to sell him the truck for 1/2 the asking price, so it would be a win win for everyone. 

Except he seems to be under the impression that he can just have the truck. My girlfriend is not in the position to just give it to him, and he makes more than enough money to buy it. She is having a hard time bringing up money for the vehicle as he continues to make statements that imply it is just his for the taking. I would really like to help her find a way to diplomatically address this with him rather than having to get in the middle of it. It would seem like being straightforward should be easy enough, but we have all had our problems with each other in the past, and I would like to avoid adding this one to the list. 

Why does it feel so awkward to want to ask for money when he was willing to shell out $600 to a neighbor down the street for a vehicle that doesn't even run? We will be avoiding mixing family and finances at least in this type of situation in the future.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Money issues are some of the biggest challenges we may face, especially with family. Many emotions become associated with money because money is a powerful force. As a result, we tend to overcomplicate matters surrounding any financial situation. Somewhere along the line your friend’s point of view and your girlfriend’s parted ways. The sooner clear communication is established, the sooner this will resolve. Deal with the facts as they are now; do not confuse things with lingering feelings from past encounters. Do not compare this with your neighbor’s deal. Just say that you want to clear up an apparent misunderstanding. You and your girlfriend should both be present to avoid any he said, she said arguments down the line. A witness is often essential to any important conversation. Stick to the facts at hand and avoid heightened emotions. I would insert an apology when possible. I would also recommend taking responsibility for the misunderstanding. Do not accuse him. Taking responsibility actually puts you in the driver’s seat. Accusing anyone has the tendency to shut down healthy conversations. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Sister-in-Law Not Wanted on Mother Daughter Getaway

Is it okay if I don't want to invite my sister-in-law to come along with my sisters, my mom and me on a weekend mother daughter getaway? 

Dear Jay,
I am planning a quick mother daughter weekend with my two sisters and mom as a gift to my mom.  Is it rude for me not to invite my sister-in-law also?  I do not want her feelings to be hurt, but I also want a drama free trip (sometimes my sister-in-law can get on my mom's and sibling's nerves.)

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This depends how closely knit your family is. There is never any obligation to invite anyone on a weekend getaway. This is about your mother, not a family jamboree. She should understand. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Annual Girls Only Weekend Tradition Ends

How do I let my sister know that I am sad that she no longer wants our annual girls weekend to continue? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and niece used to come visit my daughter and me every summer at the beach. Two years ago my sister announced that she and her husband have decided that they will only travel as a family - which means our girls week will include my brother-in-law. My husband works a lot and rarely takes off. Last year they all came and while I was anxious about it all, it was fine. However, my husband was a bit jilted that he had to spend the weekend with my sister and family then leave Monday morning for work. And to be honest, my brother-in-law is nice, but it was girl/sister time and the time we spend together wasn't quite the same. This past summer, they didn't come because my brother-in-law had work commitments. It's almost like it's about them and their schedules with little regard to me and my family. Am I wrong to be annoyed?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I think you are disappointed that your days of a girls’ weekend are over for good. I might well be annoyed too given your limited choices. There is no reason for you to bear the burden here unless you choose to. I would have a chat with your sister and explain how you understand her decision, but it makes you sad and hope she might consider carving one weekend a year for just you girls. Maybe she’ll agree. If not, count your blessings for these annual visits and make the most out of them, different though they may be. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Son's Girlfriend Not Invited For Family Vacation

How do I let my son know that although he is living with his girlfriend, we don't want her to come on our annual family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
Our 21-year-old son, a junior in college, is in a live-in relationship with a girl. Every year we take a family vacation which only includes family. How are we to handle delivering the news to our son and his girlfriend that this is a family vacation only?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your son, and adult now, and his girlfriend have been living together for 6 months, in many places they are considered common law husband and wife, in which case you’d have a pretty weak argument. As children leave the nest, there will be lots of unexpected events. You may want to consider being somewhat more flexible and become more inclusive. Your only alternative is to sit down with your son and explain that the his girlfriend is not welcome. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Rude Nephew Not Wanted at Thanksgiving

Should I honor my mother-in-law's request to invite my rude nephew to join us for Thanksgiving dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I invited my parents and my in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner as they all get along extremely well and my husband’s two other siblings are not available to invite my in-laws over for valid reasons of their own.

My mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, has a tendency to feel responsible for all the lost souls in their family. She is in her early 80’s and is handling all the affairs of her almost 20 year younger, never wed sister. The sister is a hoarder with a shopping addiction who needed to be moved to an assisted living facility because of her failing health. There are a few more “repetitive-cases” in the family involving drug addiction etc. that she wants to help as well. Suffice to say, my mother-in-law is somewhere between Florence Nightingale and a hard core missionary.

My husband’s mid-20 year old nephew is not the most polite or likable person. Nor is his behavior or language always appropriate for that matter.My mother-in-law just called to ask if we could invite the nephew to Thanksgiving dinner since we are the only family that he has. His mother lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband, but his father who lives in the state with his girlfriend has apparently not offered to have him over for Thanksgiving dinner.

My husband who has also had less than stellar experiences with his nephew in many departments asked me why his nephews’ father hadn’t invited him. I told him that I thought that to be a valid question.

I am less than thrilled since I don’t believe in telling people whom they should and should not invite to their family gatherings if they are hosting the event. If it were her home, I’d have to grin and bear it and I have done so on many occasions.

To be honest, I was looking forward to having a Thanksgiving dinner with a more mature group than he could contribute to.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My advice is to honor your mother-in-law’s request to invite the lonely nephew. Why his father doesn’t invite him over is not at question here. Occasions to be generous, compassionate, and grateful are to be embraced - always. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Not Helping at Thanksgiving

Should guests be expected to help with the food and do the dishes? 

Dear Jay,
I was invited to my girlfriend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I went and brought them a gift of 2 bottles of wine. I was asked more than once to help get the table ready and help in the kitchen. I helped bring out some food and went back to socializing. After the dinner, my girlfriend came over and told me her mom asked why I wasn't helping with the dishes. Is it rude not to help with dishes after I was invited over for dinner? I thought it was rude to invite someone over and expect them to help with dinner or dishes. In my house if someone is a guest they are supposed to enjoy themselves, not help out.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you were expected to help with all the tasks involved with dinner, your girlfriend should have known and told you. Somewhere along the line, communications broke down. On the other hand, offering to help at every turn of the screw is a very kind thing to do, and would garner you many kindness points. So, the expectation was inappropriate; but not offering to help, despite the generous gift of wine, may have come across as somewhat ungrateful. Either way, lesson learned. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Worry Over Where Mom and Dad Will Sleep

Is it appropriate for my mom and dad to ask to sleep in the master bedroom when they come and visit? 

Dear Jay,
My parents are coming over to my home for a night. They always complain about the air mattress, but recently we bought another bed; however, the only other available space to put it is in the basement. My mother has said this is okay, but my fear is that when she arrives she and my father will complain about being put in the basement. My husband is out of town so I worry that they will request that they sleep in the master bedroom. Is it appropriate to tell them no? If they really can't go to the basement, my mom has two sisters in the area she could stay with that have their separate guest facilities.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Take your mother at her word. No need to invent stories about events that won’t be happening. It’s only for one night. Abandon your fears. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Thanksgiving Invitation Chaos

Is my brother-in-law rude for pressuring us into answering his Thanksgiving invite? 

Dear Jay,
We were invited to Thanksgiving by my sister-in-law about 2 months ago and I have said twice we are coming. Her husband asked us this week if we are still coming because he has people that want to rent his house for that time. I said we don't know for sure because we don't know what the weather will be and would know closer to the time.

He said he can't have the people waiting if we don't know for sure. He would still keep it open if he knew for sure we are coming. I told him he is rude. He did not think so.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You accepted the invitation twice. Why now would weather be a factor? If he wants to cancel or move the Thanksgiving event, that is his prerogative. Yes, it’s rude of him to be waffling on this, as well as pressuring you. But it’s equally puzzling that your answer is now weather dependent. Keeping this matter as simple as possible, remember that the host decides where and when the party will be and who will attend. The guest simply accepts or regrets. If there is a timing issue, the guest must regret. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister Insists on Gifts for Daughter

How do I tell my sister nicely that because her daughter is now 19, I no longer want to buy her gifts? 

Dear Jay,
I come from a family of 3 girls and one boy. When our children were little, we together with our mother, decided that at age 18 we would stop buying the nieces and nephews birthday and Christmas gifts. This has worked well until now.  My one sister ( I'll call her Donna) has an only child that just turned 19 years old. I sent a card. (as did everyone else). My sister called to inform me that she was disappointed. She feels that we should give gifts until the kids are out of college. She stated that this is what she has chosen to do this with the other nieces/nephews and we should reciprocate.  None of us have lots of spare money. Our other sister (Clair) is about to have her third grandchild. We are pitching in to buy the niece a very nice gift.  Donna replied that "Clair had better remember how much we spent when our children have kids"

Lastly, Donna has been buying birthday and Christmas gifts for Clair's grandchildren. The problem is that she has stated that she will expect us to buy for her grandchildren. I do not want to start that. I am asking for advice on how to bring all of this up with my sister, Donna, without causing hurt feelings.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Gifts are not entitlements. No one should ever expect or demand a gift or even a gift exchange. “Donna” is a bully. Let her know she is free to make whatever choices she wishes, but you’ll be making your own as to who does and does not make the gift list. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Torn Between Daughter's and Mother's Birthday Celebrations

Whose birthday should I put more energy into - my deserving teenage daughter or my mother who always gets her way? 

Dear Jay,
Is it ok for a grandmother's birthday to repeatedly take precedent over a grandchild's birthday?

My mother, a widow living in another state, has managed to orchestrate many birthday parties for herself, yet she has never baked a cake in her life or helped plan any other birthday parties for anyone but my late father. On her 80th, my sister and I planned an enormous bash for her at her suggestion. It was wonderful for all. And I wouldn't begrudge her if it didn't have a very bad effect on my own daughter. My daughter's birthday is four days later. We travel to my mother's state, gather all the relatives in one place for my mother's birthday and completely leave my daughter's birthday out of the equation. By the time my mother's birthday is over nobody has the energy or time to travel to celebrate my daughter's birthday. She is an only child without any relatives in the state where we live. We celebrated my mother's 84th at her home on a smaller scale. My daughter turned 18 and was in between friend groups, so we had a 3 person birthday for her. 

I resolved that it would be my daughter's turn next year, despite my mother's upcoming 85th. I thought to invite all the relatives to our state and home for our daughter's 19th. When I suggested this to my mother she announced that our state was not suitable for birthday parties. To complicate things further, my uncle has since proposed that we put on a joint birthday party for my mother and for himself at my mother's, as he will be 80 and my mother will be 85. At this point, although she will be an amazing 85, I just don't feel like putting energy into her birthday, yet again. I’m torn between being a dutiful daughter to an undeserving Mother and being a good mother to a deserving teenager.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I understand your dilemma. Your mother has everyone very well trained, and frankly there’s not a whole lot you’re going to accomplish at this stage of the game by trying to buck her system. Only children also develop techniques of survival in their unique world, so you have some challenges. I think a joint birthday party for the three celebrants is a good idea. If your daughter has a couple of special friends who can’t make the trip, plan to take them out to her favorite restaurant at a later date. You have limited time left with your mother and uncle. They thrive on the connections celebrations such as these provide. I do not recommend denying this to them. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Daughter's Birthday Conundrum

Is it okay to exclude the in-laws when planning a party for my daughter? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter's birthday is coming up.  There was a problem with the amount of people coming and where to host it. My ex was going to host it until people could not car pool. At his development cars will be towed away if there are too many, so now he is not having it. 

My daughter will be 29 on the 14th of October and just had a new baby. She was upset that no one will host her party. Now she is hoping the in-laws will have it.

My question is I would want an intimate party with just the immediate family, not her in-laws. Is this wrong? Also, I feel insulted that she would want them to have it for her when I am her mom. I am unable to have it since my house is being renovated. I really don't wish to come to the in-laws to celebrate because I feel awkward. I feel she will let them know that her own family will not have a party for her.

Also, how can I have a party for her in the future without the in-laws. She is my daughter and sometimes it would be nice to have just our family. Where do you draw the line when your children get married?  I feel my son or daughter and their children is fine, but not my daughter-in-law and her sisters and brothers and their children.

Please help us with the proper etiquette.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You have many stories swirling around in your ahead about myriad possible futures. None of them will likely transpire. However, from an etiquette perspective, as host, you control the guest list - no questions asked. Invite whom you wish. As an invited guest, you always have the choice to accept or regret any invitation - again, no questions asked. My advice is to lose the stories by following your heart. Be grateful for your daughter’s happiness. Why not give your son-in-law’s family a chance? Remember the Golden Rule. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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No Couch for Me, Please

Who should get the bedroom and who should get the couch when multiple guests are visiting from out of town? 

Dear Jay,
I'm 21 years old and married. My husband and I are in town on a year long planned vacation. We are staying at my parents’ house in my old room. My husband will be leaving to go home ahead of me in a few days and then my uncle will be flying into town for a family wedding. We have three bedrooms in my parents’ house - my parents’, my sister’s, and my old room. I really don't want to sleep on the floor of my sister’s room or the couch since my family stays up late and I'm the total opposite.

I'm assuming I'll get kicked out of my room since my uncle is coming. Is that fair? I know I'm younger, but I'm also a female, and we planned our stay at my parents’ long before my uncle did. Does gender or age matter? Who should get the couch?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A year long planned vacation? Seriously? Not a bad gig at 21. You are still a guest in your parents’ house. They’ll let you know where you’ll be sleeping. Be grateful. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband's Adult Son Needs Boundaries

How do I create expectations for my husband's adult son who seems to be taking advantage of us? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I are newlyweds of 3 years. I have two adult daughters (26 and 21) who live with us because we are helping them get on their own feet. My husband has a 26 year old son who from time to time brings his 3 year old daughter and new girlfriend who also spends the night almost every night now. 

Please help me set ground rules for expectation on bringing boyfriends/girlfriends over. It is becoming a frustration on my end because he never tells me when he’s bringing a girlfriend over and my husband seems to be okay with it. His son is allowed to smoke HTC while staying with us because we were trying to help him get over his heroine addiction. It’s driving me crazy right now, though, and I can't sleep. I want what is fair for me and for him as well since my two daughters live with us too. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to sit down with your husband and communicate to him what your concerns are, and how his indifference makes you feel. Together you need to draw up a set of house rules for everyone to follow. When things begin to get under your skin, it’s best to tackle them right away. You are very generous people; have some compassion for yourselves and establish some boundaries. This shows your children, by example, what respect is all about - respect for others and respect for self. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mom Doesn't Want Daughter Bringing Boyfriend Home for Christmas

Is it understandable that I don't want my daughter bringing her boyfriend home for Christmas? 

Dear Jay,
My 24 year daughter is coming home for Christmas. She wants to invite her boyfriend to my home. I am uncomfortable with that, but she insists. I am a single mum and feel very stressed about it.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I can understand your apprehension, but if your daughter is an upstanding adult, I recommend that you trust her. I’m sure she wants you to be comfortable in your own house and will act respectfully at all times. On the other hand, your home is your castle and you are well within your rights to make the house rules. Your daughter ought to respect your rules and your feelings, but remember that she is your daughter. You raised her with your values. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. And, I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Son Irritated Mom Won't Include His New Girlfriend

Am I right to be wary of my 22 year old son wanting to invite his very new girlfriend to visit the family? 

Dear Jay,
My son is 22. He is basically a great kid. He is working and going to college, but still lives at home. He has had several girlfriends in his past- all pretty short term (nothing over 6months). Now he has a new one again, that he says he's been dating for 3 months. He's mad at me because I told him he couldn't bring her to a family party. I have only met this person 1 time myself, and don't even know her last name or much about her. He says I am being mean because he's met her family. I think this is an inappropriate time to have her jump right in. This may end up being a nice relationship for him, but both my husband and I think he should take more time getting to know her before introducing her to the family, especially since he doesn't have a longevity pattern with girls.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  He may be receiving your message as one that basically says you don’t trust him. Your son is an adult now, and even though he lives with you, he has rights and privileges. Who he decides to have relationships of whatever shape or size is not your responsibility. Allow him to follow his path, as you I hope are following yours. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Son Irritated Mom Won't Include His New Girlfriend

Am I right to be wary of my 22 year old son wanting to invite his very new girlfriend to visit the family? 

Dear Jay,
My son is 22. He is basically a great kid. He is working and going to college, but still lives at home. He has had several girlfriends in his past- all pretty short term (nothing over 6months). Now he has a new one again, that he says he's been dating for 3 months. He's mad at me because I told him he couldn't bring her to a family party. I have only met this person 1 time myself, and don't even know her last name or much about her. He says I am being mean because he's met her family. I think this is an inappropriate time to have her jump right in. This may end up being a nice relationship for him, but both my husband and I think he should take more time getting to know her before introducing her to the family, especially since he doesn't have a longevity pattern with girls.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  He may be receiving your message as one that basically says you don’t trust him. Your son is an adult now, and even though he lives with you, he has rights and privileges. Who he decides to have relationships of whatever shape or size is not your responsibility. Allow him to follow his path, as you I hope are following yours. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister Wants to Help Pay For Emergency Travel Expenses

Do I accept my sister's offer to pay for my travel expenses when I flew to help her in a medical emergency? 

Dear Jay,
My sister had a medical emergency out of town. I flew out of town to assist her. I incurred airfare, a car rental, meals, a hotel and I lost time from my job. This accounts for a lot of money. She wants to pay me back. Is this something I should accept?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your sister offers to reimburse you, and in your opinion she can afford it, accept her offer graciously. If you feel this would be a hardship, politely decline. If she then insists, accept her generosity. Remember The Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

 -Jay

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Pushy Sister-In-Law's Party Expectations Too High

Is it too late for me to tell my sister-in-law that I don't want her friends staying at my home for my brother's party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law from out-of-state is having a surprise birthday party for my brother while they will be visiting here. At first, she asked me to host the party at my home. I suggested that we have it on a train instead, and she liked the idea. But now, she has my mother doing most of the leg work and housing all the guests.

My sister-in-law also asked me to put up two of their friends (who I met once maybe 10 years ago) plus their two kids overnight at my house. I suggested a hotel, but she said her friends are on a budget. I feel burned out and told her so, but it fell on deaf ears. So, I said yes with much hesitation.
Personally, I would rather just pay for their hotel room than have to host them at my house.

I love my brother, but find his wife to be clueless and always trying to get everyone else do the heavy lifting. I'm sure her friends are nice, but she is imposing on me. Is it too late to offer to put them up at a hotel? I'm tired of taking the high road and sucking it up and going through the motions with family members and all the high maintenance that they require.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It is not too late to not only offer, but insist that her friends stay at a hotel. Taking the high road does not mean being a doormat. You must, above all, have respect for yourself. Your home is your castle and you must lay down the house rules. If your SIL is “clueless”, taking the high road would be raising her awareness to an acceptable level, not stooping to her disrespectful level. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Wicked In-Laws Cause High Anxiety

How do I deal with my the rude and disrespectful behavior of my in-laws? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws are overbearing and controlling. They live 1000 miles from my husband and me. My husband is a farmer / rancher with extremely long hours.  My career takes me 10.5 to 11 hours per day, I then take care of our shopping, large home, pool and yard. We live where my mother-in-law grew up and has 3 sisters still in our community.  

For many years we will receive a phone call announcing they are coming to visit because she wants to see her sisters. My sister-in-law does the same thing - inviting herself and family to come to our home and vacation. There have been many insults slung at me by each of them.  

One Saturday after I served lunch (no help from anyone) to my sister-in-law and her family, my husband ate then went back to work. My sister-in-law, her husband and kids got up from table, put on swimsuits and went out to swim.  As I was clearing the table my sister-in-law walked by on the way to the door, paused and said, “My husband said the only reason Tom married you is because he wanted someone that worked hard.” She laughed and was out the door.  I was appalled and angry!  

I did as I have done for many years and told myself to let it roll off, because my husband doesn't get to see his family all that often and I should  just let them enjoy themselves. I could write a book with all the outlandish crap that has been said to me by these people. I have felt horrible giving them free reign of our home while my husband and myself have been at work.  

Of course, nothing is ever clean enough, neat enough, or decorated quite good enough and this has been expressed to me. I finally got to my breaking point and told my husband I was done with putting up with this. His sister phoned on his birthday, and he told her she owed me an apology. Of course, she said she did not do anything I had told him and gave no apology. The same thing happened with his parents. Their response was, "Tom you know us and know we would not do this". Then they proceeded to point out my flaws in their opinion.  My father-in-law actually opened my bedroom door early one morning and walked in. I awoke to him standing over me asking me a question. I was mortified and couldn't even speak. He finally turned and left my bedroom. I demanded that my husband install a door knob that he could lock with a key when he left in the mornings.  

Again in the trying to get along with everyone, we just let it go.  After several other offenses from my father-in-law my husband brought up him letting himself into my bedroom and my father-in-law denied it. 

They were not allowed to stay in our home for a couple of years then my mother-in-law had a sister in the hospital so she phoned telling my husband she was coming. He said she could stay here,and then she said we needed to have a vehicle for her to drive while she was here (she flew in to the nearest large airport which is 3 hours away, so I had to go pick her up). My husband knows all this has pushed me beyond my limit, but he wants to spend time with them.  

I'm a wreck; even if they just phone it upsets me. I don't want to be around them, but my husband says he wants to see his parents, and they are getting old and will not be here that much longer. He says he wants me to go with him to a wedding that they will attend as well. I don't know that I can go and act like nothing happened when his father has called me a liar to everyone that would listen to him. My heart rate increases just thinking about it, and I cannot sleep. My husband has told me he will deal with anyone that is rude to me, but he will have to see it to deal with it. I think he is wanting everything to smooth over, but I really don't know how I can forget. How do I deal with these people that I do not think deserve the time of day from me?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a very serious problem for you, and your husband does not appreciate how this actually makes you feel. He needs to be your number one ally, even above his family. If he cannot do this, you must lay down the law. Your home is your castle, and people who do not respect you and how you manage your home, or your life for that matter, are no longer welcome. Your husband will need to make this more clear to his parents, otherwise he will have to visit them alone. You must stand your ground and be sure to never lose respect for yourself. Otherwise people will continue to be disrespectful of you. Their behavior is unacceptable and needs to be banished from your life. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband Always Wants Wife By His Side

Is there a formula for how much time a person can spend with their family versus with their spouse? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years. This is a second marriage for both of us (I was married for 4 years while he had been married for 23). My husband has very few friends, while I have still maintain friendships from grade school friends, college and past work colleagues. He is not particularly close to his siblings, 2 are out of state and 2 are local. One of his local sisters he no longer talks to. We do host a annual family reunion on his side that includes all his father's side. I have 8 siblings and my twin sister and I are the youngest.

Here's my problem, he says I spend way too much time with my family. How much time is too much? During the summer, I take Fridays off and travel down to the beach to my sister's cottage for the day. I generally come home around dinner time so it doesn't interfere with our plans. I have asked him to join me, but he really doesn't like to sit at the beach. He feels bored and restless. The few times we have gone down for the weekend, he's gone, but you can tell he's not happy so I go back to the cottage with him so he won't sulk. He also doesn't care for my brother-in-law. Recently, my brother was moving some items out of his house; he is going through a separation, and I offered to help. It turned into more than just a few things and I was gone longer than anticipated. My husband was mad at me because my brother doesn't really do anything for me, yet I drop everything for him. I do help out anyone that asks (within reason); this is my personality. But he hates it. He's always looks at it as “whats in it for him” and that's just not me.

So I guess I wanted to know if there was any formula I should use on spending time with family or friends and time with my husband. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I get along great, have a good marriage for the most part, but he always wants me right by his side. A perfect example is if he has a side job, he wants me to go with him, regardless of if I can help him or not. If I go, he's happy, if I don't, I've let him down.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Even in the best of marriages, communication can be a challenge. You seem to be very sensitive to your husband’s needs, likes, etc. Perhaps he does not fully appreciate how his behavior makes you feel. I think that if you are willing to support him when he needs you, you are well within your rights to have your own personal time with your family. Why don’t you discuss this with him and come to an arrangement that includes a degree of independence for each of you, and without judgment. Respecting one another’s individual needs and preferences is important. Marriage does not always mean being attached at the hip. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Gift Giving Guidelines for Grandparents

Am I right to ask my in-laws to back off on giving our kids so many gifts for Christmas? 

Dear Jay,
How do I nicely tell my in-laws that I don't want them to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids for Christmas? There are many reasons that I feel this way. One: we live in a small house and we honestly don't have room for tons of toys and things. Two: we travel to their houses (they are divorced) during the holidays and don't have room in our car to bring back all the things that they buy. Three: There tends to be so much stuff that my kids don't even care about a lot of it and it just gets thrown away or not used. Four: Because my husband’s parents are divorced it feels like they are trying to compete for my kids’ affections by seeing who can spend more on them. Five: my parents can't afford to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids (although I know they want to), and it seems unfair to them. Six: I don't want my kids to think that getting gifts is what Christmas is all about.

We've tried to talk to them about putting money aside in a college fund and that lasted one year. I don't want to take away their joy of giving, but I would really like to make some guidelines so that it's not so out of control this year. I would love to be able to say 1 toy, 1 book, 1 outfit and if you want to give more each child has a savings account set up for college. Help!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You make excellent points. Communication is key here, as is gratitude and responsibility. You do not want to appear ungrateful. You mention "stuff your kids don’t even care about, etc.” Perhaps they do have too much and are not grateful for what they do have. Raising your children is your responsibility. You have every right to have boundaries and guidelines around Christmas gifts. I suggest that your husband speak with his parents and lay out the “new” guidelines. If they are unwilling to accept them, you do not have to accept the gifts. Contributing to a college fund, although a nice idea, is not very warm and fuzzy, and will likely be lost on your children. It will also take away from the joy of giving. So, I would suggest that your husband tell them exactly what you have outlined here. Be sure to be reading from the same page with your husband. He must buy into this arrangement wholeheartedly. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Including More Guests For Beach House Vacation

Is it rude for us to ask if our children can bring their significant others on our vacation at a cousin's beach house? 

Dear Jay,
A cousin and his family invited my husband and I and our two 30 something year old children to spend the weekend at their magnificent beach house with them. Both of my kids have long term 3 and 5 year+ relationships, but are not yet engaged or married. It would be rude for my kids to say “see ya later” to their significant others for the weekend at the beach, but is it rude to ask if we can bring the girlfriend and boyfriend with us? Or would it be better to just get a hotel nearby for our kids and their significant others to stay?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It would not be rude for your children to spend a weekend away from their significant others. It would be rude to ask if they could be included in the invitation. Perhaps an alternative suggestion that would work for you is to explain the situation to your host and let them know that you and your husband would love to stay with them, but you will put your children, etc up at a hotel. This gives the host the opportunity to extend the invitation to them with no obligation. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Offended by No Gifts

Am I right to be offended that my in-laws did not send a gift or come visit when I was struggling with cancer? 

Dear Jay,
Hello. I was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer before Christmas. As it turns out, I was told that I was in remission before Dec.25. My mother-in-law and her husband sent me a get well card. They did not visit or send flowers (or even a plant). They live 2 and a half hours away. Should I be offended?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You cannot be offended without your permission.” This means that your feelings are your responsibility fully. Blaming others for feeling offended is inappropriate. I am very happy to hear that your are in remission and that you remain that way. You can further relieve yourself of stress by dropping expectations about how others should behave. And, be grateful for the get well card. You have much to be grateful for. If you want some flowers, go to a flower shop and buy some. If you want them to come for a visit, invite them. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Son Forced to Say "I Love You"

How do I tell my sister-in-law to stop forcing my son to say "I love you" to everyone? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my sister-in-law to stop telling my 2 year old son to say “I love you” to other people? My husband doesn't like it either, but he doesn't want to say anything as we are both at a loss of what to say. The words “I love you” to us are precious words and not tossed around whenever and to whoever, but my sister-in-law keeps telling my son to say it.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must simply tell your SIL that you and your husband find this inappropriate, especially at such a young age. As you say, these words are not to be tossed around lightly. Your child is your responsibility, not your SIL’s. Be clear, but not bitter. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Not Welcome Niece

How do I tell my niece that it's time for her to move out of my house without sounding rude to her? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's niece came to our place for holiday. She has stayed for 4 months and isn’t showing signs or plans of going. The annoying part is she enters my room without knocking whether I am in there alone or with my hubby. How do I tell her her time is up and that she should leave without sounding rude?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must speak with your husband and explain that his niece’s behavior is unacceptable. You and he must come to an agreement as to what your house rules are. You will need to let her know that she must find her own accommodations as quickly as possible. This is not rude. Your home is your castle. This is an issue that should have been dealt with before she even arrived, so now it will be awkward, but nonetheless, if you speak with kindness, all will be well. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Uninvited In-laws

How do I handle the fact that my in-laws invited themselves to my home for the holidays and I was never asked? 

Dear Jay,
My parent in laws have invited themselves to stay for the holidays. I was never asked. This is the second year. I do not want them at the house my parents worked so hard to get us and they never lifted a finger to help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You must have a chat with your husband and explain that no one can invite themselves to your home; they must be invited. You must be clear that decisions of this nature must be agreed upon. Open communication is essential to a healthy relationship. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Gatherings with the In-Laws = Awkward

How can I get my kids to understand that we don't enjoy celebrating special occasions with their in-laws? 

Dear Jay,
I find it very awkward when our kids expect us to celebrate theirs or their kids' birthdays with their in-laws. How can my husband and I help them understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I wonder why it’s awkward? They are part of the family now - maybe not your family, but your childrens’ family. How can you not understand this? I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Worried About Cousin's Dating Life

Is it okay for me to express how uncomfortable I am with my cousin and my brother-in- law potentially dating? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong to be upset that my brother-in-law wants to date my cousin?  He is 28 and she is 21; they live over 1000 miles apart. Knowing each of them very well - age differences aside - I do not think they are compatible and it will just be a "fling" which I am uncomfortable with.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is not a case of being right or wrong. It is a case of misplaced responsibility. I don’t see why your opinion is of any importance. This potential relationship is their affair, not yours. Do not give them the power to upset you. It’s your choice to detach from any desire to control. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Rude Sister Won't Be Invited Overnight Again

Am I being fair to tell my fiancee that his rude sister, her children and grandchildren will not be welcome to spend the night in our home ever again? 

Dear Jay,
My fiancée and I just bought a new house, but it's only in his name. Recently, we invited his sister and her husband for a weekend visit, but her husband couldn't come due to his work schedule. So, she took it upon herself to come with her 2 grown daughters, teenage son, and 2 grandkids.  They stayed 2 nights. We provided dinner upon their arrival, and breakfast and dinner the next day. Not once did anyone of them offer to help clean up anything. They would leave the table and go straight to the t.v. They treated our home like a hotel. My fiancée's oldest niece even had an attitude toward me. I, the host, gave her a gift and she didn't even say thank you. 

Then, 2 weeks later, the same rude niece called and asked my fiancée if she, her mom, and 4 more relatives could stay at our home while they attended a family event. Per my request, he told her that I was having family visit that same weekend. Not to mention, they have other family members in our city, but they all want to mooch off us. As it stands, I don't want that crew to ever stay at our home again. Am I  being fair for feeling this way? I'm not refusing them as 'few-hour visitors' when they're in town, but never again as over night guests.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If you don’t like having overnight guests at your house, then yes, you are being fair. If it’s because they are ungrateful guests, then you need to speak with your fiancee and ask him to speak to his sister and explain how such behavior makes you feel. Hopefully, he understands and shares the same feelings. I don’t think alienating family members without some explanation is a good idea. See if you can work things out. And remember that not everyone has the opportunity to spend time with family. Perhaps being grateful for this is something to consider as well. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister's Present More of a Pain than Pleasure

Is it okay for me to turn down my sister's tickets to a concert anniversary present because she wants to control who we invite to go with us? 

Dear Jay,
As an 'anniversary present' (our anniversary was 2 months ago) my sister invited my husband and me to a concert with performers we really love. Initially she mistakenly sent (texted) the invitation to my older brother (whom I do not wish to associate with) later correcting this and explaining what she had done as a "freudian slip" (we look alike and don't like each other).

There are four seats in her garden box and we wanted to take someone we enjoy for this fun night but my sister has pressed us to first, ask my brother (not going to happen), then my oldest sister (a religious fanatic who is homophobic and gothically dogmatic) no thanks! I suggested people but first my sister said she wanted someone to ride with her from her area (we live in the city and she on the coast), I suggested a friend who lives near her, someone she has met at her house, a lovely woman - she steered again to someone in the family, a niece (the daughter of the dogmatic fundamentalist). 

I want to politely say "thanks but no thanks" and let her take my sister, brother and niece instead. Why do people give with strings attached. My sister say she wants to "make peace like St. Francis of Assisi" but we are fine, hold no grudges but chose not to associate with negative people. Are we (am I) wrong to insist this not be a political summit but an enjoyable evening? 

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I agree with you 100%. Your relationships are not any of your sister’s business. I would have done exactly what you did! I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Don't Call Me "In-Law"

How do I tell my daughter's father's family that I don't want them to call me their "in-law"? 

Dear Jay,
I am not married to my daughter's dad. Our daughter is 10. Her dad and I have had a relationship for over 24 years. We are very close friends. We do family vacations, spend all holidays together with his family and my family.  We do not live together. My mom calls him her son-in-law, and my siblings call him brother-in-law, and my nieces call him their uncle. I do not like this, but he doesn't mind so I live with this (at least to me) annoyance.    His new sister-in-law has began to call me her sister-in-law. I do not like it. I am not her sister-in-law. It is great she thinks of me this way, but I am her niece's mom or a family friend. How do I let her know this without sounding rude? To me, a privilege of being married or marrying into a family is the title of in-law.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are in fact common-law spouses, so the title is not out of the question. If you don’t like it, simply say I’d prefer to be called “blank”. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Hot Head Son Won't Understand Boundaries

How do I communicate with my adult son about my aversion to his crashing at my house every weekend? 

Dear Jay,
How do I tell my 25 year old son that he can't bring his girlfriend and baby to my house every weekend and crash here. He doesn't have his own place yet but stays with his father during the week and comes with people in tow every weekend. I feel this is disrespectful and he is taking advantage. I would sit down and talk to him but that won't do any good because he's a hot head. What should I do and how should I approach this issue?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Disrespectful hotheads are a big problem, not only for you, but for his girlfriend and especially for the child! He needs some counseling. Is there a chance that you can speak with his father? If not, you’ll need to lay down some rules. Explain how this behavior makes you feel - i.e. disrespected, used, etc., and that this can’t continue. Explain also that you need your privacy. He’s an adult. If he throws a fit, call the police. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Adult Son Not Welcome Unexpectedly

Is it okay for me to not want my new husband's adult son to come over unexpectedly about once a month to spend the night? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I married last year and he has a 23 year old son who rents a room in a nearby city. His son stays over one night about once a month, without notice. My husband wants to keep a spare bed available for his son so he can stay over night anytime. I feel like I don't want to clean up, cook and feed him on this regular and unscheduled basis. Any advice?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Without knowing why you don’t want to do this, it’s difficult to give you advice. Perhaps some ground rules set up between you and your husband would help. For example, maybe the son could give you a couple of days notice. Another perspective would be to be grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this young man. One never knows how much time one has, does one? I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Soap Allergy

How do I let my mother-in-law know that the soap she uses is causing me to have an allergic reaction in a tactful way? 

Dear Jay,
My elderly Mother-In-Law moved in with my husband and I several months ago. She has been using a particular brand of soap bar the majority of her 80+ years of life. I am extremely allergic to perfumes and colognes and apparently I am having a strong, adverse reaction to this soap she uses daily. I have tried to politely tell her about my sensitivity to perfumes, colognes and even that my husband had to change his deodorant brand when we started dating 34 years ago. I am finding it more unbearable (coughing, sore throat and headaches) to inhale this soap smell when she is with me or has been in a room I need to be in. She is a person that has her feelings hurt easily so I have not pushed telling her specifically about this issue.  How do I tactfully let her know I can't take it anymore, especially now that we close the house up on these hot summer days?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This has become a safety issue, not just a preference. Easily hurt feelings or not, if this soap could send you to the hospital, it needs to go. Do not hesitate to bring this to her attention. Perhaps your husband could take on this task. It’s good to remember that we alone are responsible for our feelings - no exceptions. You are well within your rights to deal with this head-on, but in a kindly way. Also remember, your home is your castle. You do have the upper hand here. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Family Allowed to Destry Grandparents' Home

Is it okay for guests to leave huge messes around and refuse to clean up after themselves? 

Dear Jay,
My brother, his wife and two children visit a couple times a year for 2-3 weeks. They stay with my parents when they are in town so they can enjoy their company. However, it ends up being more stressful for my parents than enjoyable. My parents provide everything during their stay, but my brother and his wife never clean up after themselves or their children. I am talking about everything from leaving a food covered highchair/floor behind once they are done eating to toys strung across the house all the time. My parents have a nice home and enjoy keeping it at least picked up when the grandkids are over.

It was awful last Christmas (which is also my mom's birthday). My brother's children broke one of my dad's decorations that he brought back with him from Germany when he served in the Army. They also were permitted to deconstruct the tree.

When my parents confronted them about picking up after themselves and watching their children closer they were told "We are guests in your home. Guests don't clean." and "Maybe you shouldn't have so many decorations out for the boys to get into."

So who is right? Should my parents accept that they are guests not children with chores or should my brother and his family help out and watch their children more closely?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your brother’s family are way off base. Of course they should help, and be responsible. I wonder who taught him this unacceptable behavior? It’s time for it to stop, but that directive should really come from your parents. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister's Visits Unwelcome

How do I tell my sister that I don't want her to visit as often because she is overly critical? 

Dear Jay,
I have a sister who has visited us from out of state 5 times this year and is hinting about a possible sixth time. I love my sister, but she has this judgmental attitude that she passes on everything from TV shows to how clean my car is. The house is thrown into complete disarray with every visit with everyone feeling like they are constantly walking on eggs. I still want her to visit but not every two months. How can I tell her not to come without hurting her feelings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Rather than worry about the frequency of her visits, you may want to consider having a chat with her about her superior attitude. In the end, if that doesn’t change, no visit will be a welcome one. Simply explain to her that her judgmental attitude makes all of you feel like you are walking on eggshells, just like you have described to me. Let her know that her dismissiveness and lack of humility are no longer welcome in your house. She is a bit of a bully, from the sounds of things. Bullies bully because they can. Someone just needs to let her know how she affects the people around her. Often when people are made aware of these things, they change their behavior instantly. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband's Family Doesn't Understand Boundaries

Am I really an ogre or is my husband's family totally disrespecting my requests? 

Dear Jay,
I work from home and have a dedicated office with a great deal of phone time involved. My adult stepson lives with us right now to get back on his feet.  He is generally quiet and tries not to make noise in the home. He's not an issue, but our home is very small as it was an empty nest purchase and we only have 2 bedrooms. On most weekends, he has his 2 year old here, too.

The issue is with my husband's other family members, mainly stepdaughter.  She is 18, with a baby, and her boyfriend. She frequently wants to come visit and "get away" as they live with her Bio Mom. She has a history as a wild child, and has even stolen things like makeup from me while visiting. When she wants to come down, she texts my husband and "invites" herself the same day she wants to come down. She always plays the "I miss you Daddy" game, but she manipulates and everyone knows this - sometimes she visits to ask for money. This event happens about once a month. We also visit - she's 2 hrs away - but we take day trips.

I have asked for more advanced notice multiple times; her visits create a big crowd in a very small home (1300 sq ft, stepson, and 3 cats). Sometimes I have plans, and sometimes I don't have enough food (they want us to take them out and drop $100 on dinner anyway. My husband always caves and says at least I don't have to cook).

My husband has requested that she wait to arrive until after I get off work, but she shows up several hours before my work ends, and it is a disruption.  She really tries to be quiet, but will come in and start mouthing silent questions when I'm on the phone, doors opening and closing, you get the picture. My husband's Mom also arrived an entire day early (planned trip) in the middle of a workday without calling first and stayed for 4 days. It was supposed to be 2 nights. This seems to be a trend with the people that do not have jobs in our family!

I  get upset when receiving texts in the middle of the day from my husband about this, and I have begun responding the same grump and "inflexible" way.  It always seems that I am at fault for having problems with this behavior and feeling like my time is not respected. I know that I have become rigid, and I'm actually getting worse and worse. My husband says that I put him in the middle of all this.

It's frustrating to get anyone to understand that I NEED people to plan ahead if they are planning with my time, money, and home. I also do not want people to show up at my home in the middle of a workday. I told my husband that maybe they need to go to his office and hang out until he gets off work?  No matter what any plans I make are ruined because even if they don't show, he will come home and not talk to me the rest of the night. We've been married 10 years.

Am I wrong?  Is there a better way I can handle this without becoming an Ogre each time we are asked and I get the dreaded text?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This is a classic case of the person being bullied (you) being turned into the bully (in their eyes, and in fact). You and your husband need to have an honest discussion about how these intrusions make you feel - disrespected, used, etc. He needs to make you his number one priority. If he is unwilling to do that, then you may have a much bigger issue on your hands. A solution is for you to design a set of house rules together and to enforce them. Your home is your castle. If you do not treat it and yourselves with respect, no one else will either. If you don’t speak up for yourself, you are demonstrating that you have no respect for yourself. Others pick up on that. Take a stand. It’s your house, too! I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Inhospitable Hosts

Is it okay for my step mother-in-law to much so many demands when the family comes to visit? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws (father-in-law and step-mother-in-law) moved to their cottage in retirement. They live 3 hours from our main city. They are often unpleasant company when we visit as individual families (tense, irritable, bickering, micromanaging and being rude to family guests). Many of the adult children have young children and a baby. For a major holiday, they invited most of the family to visit the cottage for a holiday weekend. In addition to driving 3 hours, the step-mother-in-law asked the adult children with young children to help with the meal preparation, pay for/bring food. Though they have 3 guest rooms and can easily accommodate the small family group via beds or additional air mattresses, they stated that some family can stay at the cottage and others can pay and stay at a local bed and breakfast/hotel. Is it rude for them to expect guests with young children to drive a long distance, bring/prepare and pay for food and pay for lodging? It seems quite stressful, inconsiderate and inhospitable. What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds like she’s very predictable. She is acting as host, but not fulfilling the duties associated with hosting. She’s in essence a bully. So yes, it is stressful and inconsiderate. And as long as she is allowed to get away with this, she will. That’s what bullies do. So you have a couple of choices. Regret the invitation or resign yourself to her quirkiness. If you regret the invitation, she may get the message, but not necessarily. I doubt changing the spots on this leopard is possible. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Son-in-Law Driving her Nuts

Should I suggest to my daughter that she visits me without her husband because he drives me crazy? 

Dear Jay,
My son-in-law has been a constant irritant since the day I met him. When my daughter brought him over to meet me, I had just finished dressing but was still in my bedroom. She came into my room- which is natural and fine- but trailing in behind her was my son-in-law (then new boyfriend)! I politely told him to have a seat in the living room, but was immediately turned off by his lack of manners. I blamed her for not giving him the obviously needed instructions to just sit down and him for not knowing any better.

Seven years later, it's just been more of the same. When they come over with my grandsons- he walks the diaper bag all the way into my bedroom. When he wants lotion for his eczema, he walks through my bedroom, into my bathroom and goes through my vanity drawers! He'll ask, but rather than wait for me to get it, he helps himself and I just run into him coming out of my room. He's always opening up and looking trough my cabinets too. I ask, “What are you looking for." He smiles and says, "Nothing. Just looking. When I'm coming in with my groceries he'll get them out of the car, but insists on putting them away, even if my 17yr old son brings them in! I've asked him to just leave them, but he ignores me and does it anyway. I then have to go behind him and put my things where I want them or go crazy trying to find where he put something. My daughter says he just wants to be helpful, but I tell her, if I ask him not to, I expect him to respect my wishes. I also don't like every one that visits me to have their hands in my fridge. Weird huh?
I've told my daughter that I'm her mom not his and that he takes a lot of liberties with me that even she does not; that he has no boundaries and I have no privacy from him. It made her very sad. My family does not behave this way and it's really driving me crazy.

My mom tells me to not say anything for fear that they will stop coming to see me. My daughter and I are very close and I truly don't think she would keep my grandsons from me because I'd rather she come alone. But you never know. I find that I'm stressed every time I know they are coming because he makes me angry and nuts and I'm advised not to say anything in my own home. What happened to, 'my house- my rules’?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You ask the key question yourself - what happened? For example, when you ask him what he’s looking for, and he tells you he’s just looking, that would be an obvious time to tell him that your bedroom is off limits. It’s your bedroom - your rules! Ditto, everything else you’ve mentioned. It’s up to you to make the rules and to stand by them. Your guests are not psychics - not even your daughter. You must let people know in a clearer voice what is expected of them and what is not. This will clearly demonstrate that you have respect for yourself and your house. They will then have respect for you, but not until then. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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She Won't Take No For an Answer

How do we handle a relative who wants to rent our vacation home even though we have already told her no? 

Dear Jay,
A relative of mine keeps asking if she can rent our family vacation house. She would like to use it along with her other cousin and her family. We have decided that if we let her stay she will want it at other times of the year and we don't want that issue. We just want the place available for our immediate family to go when we want to. If we wanted a timeshare we would have bought one! We have been telling her that it's not available, but she keeps insisting on going no matter the obstacles we put out. How do we deal with her lack of understanding?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It sounds to me like you must speak in a clearer voice. This is a very simple and easy matter. You do not rent or loan out your vacation home, period. There is no discussion - not now, not in the future. No “yes buts”. No means no. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Grandparents Never Invited to Grandkids' Birthday Parties

Should grandparents be invited to attend their grandchildren's birthday parties? 

Dear Jay,
I wanted to know if it is acceptable to never have been invited to a grand daughter or grandsons’ birthday party?  I am asking on behalf of my folks who have a daughter who has never ONCE invited them to her daughter’s birthday party (she is turning 13) or her sons’ birthday parties (they are turning 10 and 8). Is this what people do? I do not have children, but it would have been nice to have gone to at least one party.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:My grandparents were never invited to any of my birthday parties. It is absolutely acceptable. Others include all of their relatives - that’s also acceptable. Whatever the host of the party wants is what they may have. Each to his own, as the saying goes. Questioning a guest list is not something I encourage. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Worried about Female Friends Texting Husband

Should I worry about my husband receiving a text from my beautiful friend? 

Dear Jay,
I realize it is not the 1950s anymore, but I am not sure of the proper etiquette for couple friends. I don't have male friends and my husband doesn't have female friends. That being said we have some couple friends that don't mind the spouses spending one on one time with the spouse of the opposite sex (with the babies close in age in tow, of course). My female friend gave her husband my contact information so that we could go to the park with the kids while she was working. Since then she texted my husband (nothing inappropriate) because I had to borrow her phone not because he gave her his phone number. Is it odd that I feel uncomfortable with all this? I have to admit that I do feel insecure because my friend is so beautiful, but nobody has given me a reason to be insecure. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is not odd that you have such a feeling, but have compassion for yourself. Allow yourself to have the feeling, but let it pass. If you have no reason to doubt your husband’s fidelity, then don’t
-Jay

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Sharing Dad's Home Proves to be Upsetting

Am I wrong to be upset about my dad bringing his young girlfriend and her child to his home all the time when my husband and I live there? 

Dear Jay,
My father in law moved in with us just a few months after we were married and stayed for a year and 1/2. He bought a house and we moved in with him just recently to save money for a house. He has started bringing his young girlfriend and child to our house every day or every other day. Our house only has room for the people in it. Because of all this I'm upset and wanted to move out. Do I have a right to be upset? I know it's his house, but after having to share my home this long and having to share it with more people I'm overwhelmed and think it's king of rude.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You refer to the house you all live in as our house. It’s his house, not your house, too. He has every right to do whatever he wishes in his house; just like you will be able to do when you buy your house.  Isn’t it time you had your own place? Maybe this is a message that the time has come to move out. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mom's Visit Demands Driving Daughter Crazy

Am I wrong to be so annoyed with my mother's attitude towards visiting me and her grandchildren? 

Dear Jay,
When my mother, who is now 66 years old, wants to visit me, it usually is a very stressful process. When my husband and I moved 20 kms away, she always insisted that my husband or I pick her up her house. But when my brother, who lives in the same area as her and doesn't have a car either, is invited, my mother and brother insist we pick him up at his house as well. My husband and I asked if they would be able to meet us at a location that was half-way between our homes. They balked and complained, saying they couldn’t understand the whole commotion. So, feeling they were ungrateful, we refused to pick them up at all. We explained that owning a car cost money and just because my brother chose not to buy a car (my mom doesn't know how to drive), that that was his choice just as it was ours to buy a car. Also, we have two young children to take care of as well. So, now my brother rents a car, but you can feel that there is tension.

My mom never a visits us unless she can get a lift. It does take an hour and a half to get to our house by bus, so I told my mom that I would love her to visit, but I will meet her at the half-way point. She refuses. So, she never comes over.

My mom recently asked if she and my brother could come over for a visit. I said that would be wonderful. We set the date and I asked that they come over around 1pm because one of our two daughters had a soccer game (a year-end soccer BBQ) and that we would be eating there. In other words, I wouldn't be making a lunch or supper this time (which normally I do). My mom insisted on having a supper. So, reluctantly I agreed. I then asked her what she felt like having for supper. She said hamburgers. I asked her if she could bring something for supper and then she got upset. She couldn't understand why she always had to bring something. She said her mom never brought food to our house growing up. But my grandmother stayed at our house for 3 days a week and cooked all the meals.

I always feel like my mom looks at coming over to our house as if she is a guest and not my mom. My mother-in-law never comes over empty handed. And, although my mom now helps out with preparation a bit, and she always enjoys playing with the girls, I always feel that the visit was to benefit her and is not for the well-being of everyone else. She has never invited us to her apartment, but I do understand that her place is small for all of us. But we can fit around her table and then go out for a walk or to the park across the street from her.

Am I wrong in asking her to bus it half-way? Am I wrong in asking her to bring food? Shouldn't mothers do more for their kids? I feel like the roles are reversed.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There are no shoulds. Perhaps being grateful that you even have a mother would be a good place to begin. She is bonding with your daughters - that’s a wonderful experience that is priceless. Be grateful that you can help out. If transportation is an issue, take the high road and be happy about picking her up. Be glad that you have a washing machine that she can use. Perhaps by showing this side of yourself, she will loosen up and be more grateful herself. In any event, she won’t be around forever and you don’t want to be kicking yourself down the road wishing you had been kinder and less self-centered. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Diapering the Dog For Safety

Is it okay for us to demand that my mother-in-law's dog wear diapers to prevent it from soiling the floor and creating sanitation issues and safety hazards while she lives with us? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's mother is 94 and recently broke her arm and hip. She is willing to stay with us until she is fully healed, but wants her small dog to come too. The small dog is partially paralyzed and tends to urinate and have bowel movement's when excited. The dog is excited very often and is not neutered. We would like to put a diaper on the dog since we have 3 other dogs and worry about both sanitation and safety. For example, what if the dog soils on the floor and his mother slips and falls again? (This is how she broke her hip and arm in the first place) His mother does not like the idea of a diaper and thinks it's ok and can just be cleaned up. How do we tell her the dog is either wearing a diaper or not welcome?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Explain to her that for everyone’s safety and health, the dog needs to wear a diaper. Frankly the dog will adjust to this quite easily and will be more comfortable possibly, too. It’s your house, and you have every right to make the house rules. This seems like a small concession for her to make to be able to live at home with family rather than to stay in a hospital or other healthcare facility. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Sister Doesn't Like the House Rules

Are we being unreasonable by telling my sister if she lives with us that she can't have overnight guests in our home? 

Dear Jay,
My fiance and I have bought our first home together and will be moving in a month. My younger sister who is a college student would like to rent a room from us. We found this to be advantageous as it will help cover some of the cost of the mortgage plus we have a very good relationship. My fiance and I decided that we would not like there to be overnight guests. Upon informing my sister of this she became very upset with me and is now reconsidering moving in. Are we being unreasonable by disallowing overnight guests?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your home is your castle. If your sister is not comfortable with your house rules, she needs to find another place to live. Your house, your rules. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Brother and Sister-in-law Need to Pull Their Weight

How should I tell my brother and sister-in-law that when they stay with us they need to help with meals especially when we are preparing parties? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and sister in-law live six hours away from the rest of our family and typically, when we have a birthday party or any other large family get together they ask to stay with my husband and I. Usually, I try to ask them in advance if they will be staying with us because I like to prepare ahead of time as we are busy with three young kids, but they always give us a "maybe" until about the week before. (This time they told us they were going to take time off work and come early even though we will still be working and have other engagements!) They have a family of five, so I feel like on top of planning a large family party at our house, it's hard to plan meals for them for their extended weekend as well last minute. How appropriate is it for me to ask them they need to help plan meals since we are busy hosting a party and don't have time to plan meals for 10? Is it okay for me to ask them to contribute to the food costs since they stay with us so frequently?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Yes, yes, yes. You should have this discussion with your brother before they arrive. Just explain that you cannot afford to carry these expenses, nor do you have the time to deal with meal preparations and that you would really appreciate the help. They will more than likely be delighted to help you out. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Adult Son Not a Good Guest

How do I let my adult son and his wife know that when they come to dinner at our home they should bring something or offer to help? 

Dear Jay,
My adult son and his wife frequently come to dinner at our house (they are recently remarried). They don't come without being invited, but when they do come, they never bring a bottle of wine or ask if they can bring anything. They show up, enjoy our food, wine, beer, etc. and then leave. She never helps to clean up. They recently bought a fixer upper house for their first house and they are on a very strict budget.

My husband argues with me every time after they leave. He says they should bring wine or offer to bring something. I don't want to alienate my children and I don't know how to tactfully talk to them about this.

What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Somewhere along the line they were taught, as were most children, that when you go to eat at your parent’s house, it’s somehow different than going to anyone else’s house. You need to explain the concept of a hostess gift and the fact that lending a helping hand is a good thing. I assume your son is from a different marriage, otherwise his father could explain this to him also. 

You could also subtly ask if his wife could give you a hand in the kitchen for a few minutes. You might also be able to show them by example, by taking a bottle of wine to their house when you’re invited and offer to help clean up. But more times than not, parents like helping out their children, and this can last until their dying days. So from another perspective perhaps your husband needs to adjust his thinking and be grateful for the precious time you have to spend with your family. A bottle of wine is symbolic, as is helping to clean up - symbolic of gratitude. We all slip up from time to time in showing gratitude. A gentle suggestion is all that may be needed. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Home Is No Longer Her Castle

How do I tell my sister-in-law that although her mother lives with us, I don't want her to come over all the time? 

Dear Jay,
My in-laws moved into our house. Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away shortly after. Prior to and after his passing my sister-in-law and her children seem to be over every weekend. In addition, two of them always want to eat everything in sight and even though I occasionally say no, there have been times that she let them. Sometimes they come over actually expecting to be fed, without bringing anything to contribute. This, in my opinion, is rude and unacceptable behavior. In addition, while I know her mother still lives with us, I would still like to have some weekends where we can just enjoy our house without ANYONE else coming over. It's getting very stressful and I'm trying to be polite, but I'm reaching the end of my rope. I want to be able to enjoy my time off without having a house full of people all of the time.  What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to lay down some house rules. Your home is your castle and at the moment you are not in charge. You are actually demonstrating that you have no respect for your own house, so why should anyone else? People like structure in their lives. This is a time for you to provide that as far as your house is concerned. When everyone knows the rules, life is much smoother. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Elderly Mom Can't Take Care of Sickly Daughter

How does my mom properly tell my sister that she can't take care of her because she is too old? 

Dear Jay,
My mother is 82 years old and my sister is 65 years old. My sister is very sickly but insists on visiting Mom for months at a time. My mother uses a walker and has to wait on my sister which wears her out. My sister is also incontinent and wets on furniture and leaves the high rise toilet seat crapped over and even leaves turds on the floor. Mom can't clean up after the bathroom episodes and calls me to clean up the crappy bathroom. My sister lives with her daughter who want's a break from disabled mom. My sister has been coming for vacation months for years. She is stealing valuable things from the house and mom knows it. Mom is sharp and knows what is missing. The question is how do you as a mother tell your child that they can not stay so long because you can’t take care of yourself let alone them?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  These sorts of discussions are awkward, but must occur if any chance of a more stress-free relationship is to be maintained. At a certain point, an assistant will be required. If family members can’t manage the situation, someone will need to be hired. It sounds like a family meeting is in order. All stakeholders need to come to an agreement so that the bases are all covered at all times. This kind of unsanitary behavior presents safety risks to all involved. Perhaps some assistance is available through the department of health and family services. There is no need for anyone to be in this situation alone. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Annoyed that Brother Has No Responsibilities

What should I do about my brother's inability to help around the house when we all live together and he should be pulling his own weight? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I together with our 3 kids are living back in my parents’ house until we are back on track in terms of our finances.  My 22 year old brother is living with us, too.  He and his boyfriend would usually eat 4-5 times a week in the house. I usually buy groceries. When my mom comes home once a month she buys some groceries as well. What annoys me is that I am taking care of a baby, a 3 year and a 6 year old already, and yet I am still the one who cleans up after everyone in the house.  

My husband works long hours and his schedule is different every week.  On days that he is home he helps me with the chores.  We are thankful that my parents are letting us stay, but I feel like we are the ones who clean the house, cook food for everybody, take the trash out, shovel the snow or mow the lawn.  

My brother is not expected to do any household chores because my mom said he would complain that he is studying, so if he helps around the house he would fail again. I don't see him studying though. Every night his boyfriend comes and eats at our house, then they play sims or watch t.v. until 11 pm or until the boyfriend needs to leave to go to work.  

My mom is siding with my brother saying he should be allowed to do whatever because he is finally happy as he let his true self out. My dad is annoyed too like me but doesn't want to argue with my mom. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You must all begin to start taking responsibility for yourselves. It was your choice to have three children; and it was your choices that got you into the financial pickle you’re in. In the meantime, you should not have to be responsible for feeding your brother and his partner. You need to have a chat with him about this. The responsibilities should be shared as far as cooking and cleaning goes. They are a bit outnumbered, 5 of you, 2 of them, so you would be expected to do your fair share. If something is bugging you, stewing about it will achieve nothing. You must let people know how their actions make you feel. Since your mother is seldom around, you need to sort this out yourselves. Remember that you are all guests in your parents’ home. Treat it with respect. Begin with having respect for yourself and teach your children the valuable lessons you were not taught as children. Also be grateful everyday that you are safe. You need to focus on getting your own place to live, and so does your brother. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Dad and Daughter Need to Work it out

What should I do about the uncomfortable situation between my husband and my oldest daughter? 

Dear Jay,
My dear sister and brother-in-law are hosting a "family" bridal shower for my niece and her fiance. My sister expects about 60 people, and I have offered to help her with some of the food. Our eldest daughter (over 30) is the matron of honor. She has been completely estranged from her father for about a year due to an incident that she believes endangered the life of her daughter (now 17 months). I was present at the incident along with four other of our children and don't agree with this perception. There has been bad blood between daughter and father through the years, but also periods of peace. She has now asked me if he will be attending the shower, and says that if he is going, she will likely not attend because: "I don't want to cause a scene. And we don't want our daughter anywhere near him." 

Currently, I believe both my husband and I will go. I have not shared any of this with my husband, because I frankly think my daughter is out of place to put me in the middle of this battle. Not only that, but if she can't show up to an event without causing an outburst I believe that she should stay home. Do I have an obligation to share with my daughter our plans of attending?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A discussion is long overdue between your husband and his daughter, perhaps using a good mediator to assist. Your daughter never learned the skill of civil conversation. In all likelihood there is some level of joint responsibility for this rift and apologies from both sides will be necessary. A mother’s concern for the safety of her child cannot be overestimated, so if her perception is incorrect, someone needs to convince her otherwise. You are smart to stay out of this whole mess. It is up to your daughter to let her host know if she will or will not accept the invitation, not you. Frankly, your daughter needs to learn how to behave civily at important family functions. They will occur. If she must, she can find a sitter for her daughter. Since your daughter asked you the question, you should answer it. But you do not need to take any responsibility for her reaction to the news. She’s an adult. Hopefully she learned how to take responsibility for her feelings and actions as a child. If she didn’t, now is as good a time as any for her to start. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Pizza Money

Should I send pizza money and a thank you when my son sleeps over at his friend's house? 

Dear Jay,
My son sleeps over at his friend’s house often. I was going to send a thank you note with 20.00 for pizza.  Is this strange and unnecessary?

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  A simple phone call would be best. It’s a very nice gesture; perhaps, one day you will reciprocate. Until such time, give your son some money before he heads over to his friends house to cover such expenses. Remember that guests do not have to pay their own way. Maybe he could offer to buy the whole pizza from time to time to level things out. This could be a very teachable moment. I hope this helps.

Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Sister Takes Over Mom's Party's Guest List

How do I handle my sister who invited extra people to a party that I am throwing for my mother when I don't have extra money to pay for them? 

Dear Jay,
I am throwing a sit down catered (by me) outdoor party for my mom's 90th birthday, which she asked me to do for her. She gave me her guest list, and along with some other family members I knew she wanted to invite, I made up a final guest list of about 80 people, figuring 50 would come. I rented the venue, reserved all the tables and chairs etc., and prepared a menu, purchased glasses, plates, silverware etc., thinking that 50 would be my top number. I am suddenly getting RSVPs from people I do not know, and it turns out my eldest sister, who did not want to have the party herself, has invited 16 of her own friends to come. She may have invited more, she won't tell me. They do have some connection to my mom, as my sister's friends, but they were not on my mom's invite list. 

I don't want to upset my mom by having to put my sister in her place, and un-invite those people, but I see no other way. I can't afford to feed that many more people, or seat them, and frankly don't want to have to. I think it's terribly rude of my sister to do this to me, but in my family the one who is considered rude is the one who speaks up. What should I do? This is the first party my mom has ever asked for, and the first time she's ever wanted me to throw one for her. Usually it's my sister who does, although she has never invited me to one since we are estranged.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You can thank your mother for having raised two daughters who have yet to learn to communicate effectively, or to even have a modicum of respect for one another. Be that as it may, an alternative to disinviting guests is to ask your sister to pay for their share of the party. If she is unwilling, disinvite them, or better yet, have her do it. The idea that you do not control the guest list of your own party is preposterous. Having respect for yourself is hardly being rude. It’s never too late to set things straight. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Overstaying Their Welcome?

Should I feel upset that my husband allowed his step-son and his family to stay a week longer than he was scheduled to stay without really consulting with me? 

Dear Jay,
My step-son, his wife and his twin girls have come to visit before they move to Germany for 3 yrs with the Army.  They stated they would be staying a week.  They announced 4 days into their visit that they will be staying an additional 5-7 days. My husband immediately said, “Sure, no problem.”  We are paying to kennel our very protective dog while they are here. I have cooked all of the meals and my husband has paid for all of their snacks, entertainment and souvenirs so far. I am not happy about this. What can I do? I miss my dog and I want my house back.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My suggestion is that you be grateful for the opportunity before you. Providing this sort of hospitality and family bonding before this major life transition for your family is not something all of us will ever have, and most of us would cherish. If you miss your dog, go visit him and take him for a walk everyday. You’ll have your house back soon enough. Practice gratitude everyday. Life is short. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

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Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on allexperts.com and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and he's now ready to answer your questions here on Stage of Life. 

Just let us know your question, your stage of life, and we'll post your question and Jay's official etiquette response on this page.

Ask Jay a Question

You can read more about Jay on his website, EtiquetteGuy.com

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