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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

Graduation Celebration Bill

Is it in poor taste to not pay for everyone coming to the dinner to celebrate my sons' graduations? 

Dear Jay,
My sons are graduating high school next month and we are hosting a party the day after.

My question is that right after the graduation ceremony we would like our family to go eat together at a restaurant, and I need to know if its in poor taste to not pay for everyone.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It’s not in poor taste unless you forget to mention that this will be a dutch treat meal, and give everyone the choice to accept or regret. If you want to host the party yourselves, you’d obviously have to pay the whole bill. 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.

Cook Out Hook Up

Is it okay for me to pursue a relationship with my daughter's boyfriend's grand uncle? 

Dear Jay,
I went to a cook out of my daughter's boyfriend’s family. I was approached by his Grand Uncle. We hit it off, but my daughter says if you marry him, that would be weird because he’s already family. Is it wrong???

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is nothing wrong at all. Any relationship would only be by marriage, not by blood. Follow your heart. 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.

Wedding and Shower Date Disaster

Do I have a right to be angry that my nephew's bridal shower is on the same day as my son's wedding even if they knew the wedding date well in advance? 

Dear Jay,
My son is the first one to be engaged and set a wedding date of my siblings.  My nephew became engaged shortly there after. He contacted my mom to confirm the wedding date so the weddings were not on the same date; however, the maid of honor is hosting a bridal shower on my son's wedding day.  Invitations were sent out 4 weeks before her invitations were mailed.  Now my sister and her family will be attending the bridal shower and not my son's wedding.  I was disappointed that my nephew or his future bride allowed the maid of honor to schedule the shower on this date. The maid of honor sent an invitation to the grandmother but not to me, knowing my son's wedding was on this day. I sent my nephew a message letting him know I was disappointed that the shower was on my son's wedding day. Is that inappropriate of me?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Not at all! I would be fuming. The shower should be rescheduled. If not, trust me - the guests will know what the right thing to do is. There is nothing to do at this point except to be gracious if they come to their senses and change the date for the shower. Have compassion for them and for yourself. We all do stupid things. 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.

Wedding trip hijacking mother-in-law

Are we under any obligation to visit with or stay with our family while in my husband's hometown for a wedding? 

Dear Jay,
My husband is the best man in a wedding in his hometown this summer.  We have 5 children and live on the other side of the country so this is actually our first visit out east.  We have arranged to stay in a condo for all but a few days despite his mom’s insistence to stay with her.  I know her feelings are hurt, but my husband simply can't stand the thought of even a couple days at her house.  Now she is trying to "force" interaction between my husband and his brother (who also lives in the area)). The brothers don't really get along, but she's acting as though my husband needs to reach out. My question is whose responsibility is it to initiate a get together?  Is it rude for neither brother to try?  Is it ok not to contact them when we are there or are WE being rude? Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  No one is under any obligation to contact anyone. Your mother-in-law has no business involving herself in this affair. You are grown ups for goodness sake. This behavior has been going for years, no doubt. You are not being rude. From your brother-in-law’s perspective, he may even view your keeping to yourselves as considerate! 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.

Dealing With People Who Invite Themselves

How can I tell my sister that I don't want her to come to my Mother's Day outing? 

Dear Jay,
My sister asked me what I was doing for Mother's Day this year and I told her my daughter was taking me to a local restaurant.  She knew the restaurant well and said, "They have good food so maybe we will go with you."  I don't mind, but by the time she gets her whole family and their mates and grandchildren the group is so large that we have waited for hours in the past to seat the whole family. This is unacceptable to me considering our past experiences. What do you do when people invite themselves? The event is ruined for me because the group is so large you can't sit and talk to everyone. There are only four people in my immediate family. I don't want to hurt my sister’s feelings, but it's just not setting well with me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I am so sorry I missed this timely question, but here is my answer anyway. You knew the moment your sister suggested she join you that you did not want that. You can’t say “Now I don’t mind” in one breath, and “event is ruined for me” and “not setting well” in another. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy Mother’s Day with your core family. Suggest another time in the near future when a larger family get together might work better. If in fact you really don’t get to spend much time together - just the 4 of you - then you have a very strong case when it comes to Common Sense. Have confidence that your sister knows right from wrong and will fully understand. 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.

Funeral or Graduation?

How do I decide whether to attend my wife's grandfather's funeral or to go to my nephew's graduation? 

Dear Jay,
My second wife’s grandfather just passed and the funeral is the same day as my nephew’s high school graduation. I’m the one who would make sure all his cousins and my four children attend. What do I do? My wife wants me to go with her.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You should go to the funeral with your wife. You will need either take your children to the funeral or find someone else to take them to the graduation. 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.

Wife Won't Budge on Having House Guests

Is it wrong for relatives to want to stay with us even if they aren't predominately coming to visit with us? 

Dear Jay,
My wife doesn't want to allow family or friends to stay the night at our home because she feels our home is being treated like a hotel even though we haven't had anyone stay overnight at our house for years, and very seldom before that. 

Recently, my niece asked if she and her friend could spend the night.  My niece and her friend (female) are planning a trip to Santa Cruz (about an hour away from us), and she called asking if they can spend one night at our house. This is the first time she has ever asked to stay at our house.  My wife does not want them to stay because she feels they are treating our home like a hotel since their primary reason for staying with us is not to visit with us but to go to the beach. Also, if we say yes this time she'll do it all the time.

Two years ago I had an aunt, two of my only first cousins on my mom’s side, and one cousin’s husband come into town from Europe. We aren’t close relatives, but I wanted to invite them to stay at our house as we have plenty of room/couches. My wife got upset and threatened to leave during their stay again claiming they weren’t here to visit us but just using us as a hotel.  I ended up getting them a hotel room for the 2 nights, but I felt so bad.

Is it impolite or out of the ordinary for family/friends to ask if they can spend the night when they are in the area for other functions?  Or primarily to visit other family members that don't have room in their home? What about when a trip is not just solely to visit the host?

Another issue my wife has is not enough time is being given to ask it they can stay.  In the case of my niece, she asked 10 days in advance, and my aunt asked about 2 weeks before their proposed visit. What is the appropriate amount of notice that should be given?

Also, in the case of my Aunt the initial request actually came through my Mom not directly from my Aunt.  Is this so inappropriate or out of the ordinary?

Obviously the real issue is my wife doesn't want overnight guests period though she doesn't admit that this is the issue. Isn't that what any house guest is ultimately doing - getting a free place to stay?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: A bit of Common Sense and a look at The Golden Rule may help here. I understand your position and completely agree with you. Family visits, no matter how long or short, are good. Your wife should be grateful that she is in a position be able to offer such hospitality. There is nothing unusual or impolite with anything anyone has done so far. Try to convince your wife that taking the high road will pay dividends in the long run. Perhaps she is familiar with the idea of paying it forward. If she won’t budge, encourage her to go on a field trip, as she threatened to do. 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.

Graduation Meal Payment

Who pays for the meal after the graduation? 

Dear Jay,
I am going to my grandson's high school graduation. Who should pay for a dinner the next day?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Whoever is throwing the party generally pays for it. If your son or daughter is the host, and you wish to contribute, mention it to him or her privately. If you are not planning to contribute, you need do nothing, unless of course this is your dinner party. Then you get to pay. 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.

My Husband's Yucky Friends

How do I tell my husband I don't want his unlikeable friends in our home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband had some friends over at our home that I don't approve of. They came while I was at work, and just my husband and my daughter were at home. I don't like these people, so I don't know how to deal with them without arguing with my husband.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband has a right to invite his friends over to your house when he wishes. If you think there is a safety issue for your daughter, you need to discuss this with your husband, as uncomfortable as this may be. Your daughter’s safety cannot be compromised. Perhaps she has a friend or relative she could go stay with while you’re at work. Call Family Services if you need to. However, if there is no safety issue, I think you have a weak case. 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 overstepping her sibling bonds

What should I do about my sister-in-law's invasion of my bedroom and house? 

Dear Jay,
I am in my second year of marriage. My husband is the last born and the only boy. In our first year of marriage his eldest sister (42 years old - unmarried) was at our house every day of the weekend. She would arrive at 7am in the morning while we were sleeping and leave after midnight (every weekend), and my husband would say nothing.

She moved to another country for work, but came back to work for a project for a week. Her company paid for her hotel during this time, but she opted to stay with us the whole time. In this 1 week she let me do all the cooking and chores and never helped.

The most confusing part is that while we had set up the spare bedroom for her, she one night chose to sleep in our bed with us (me and my husband). I found this very uncomfortable as it didn't seem right. My husband still did not see anything wrong with it. Since he did not say anything I chose to not say anything either, but I am still not happy about it.

On other occasions my husband and I would be in bed watching a movie on a laptop and she would jump into bed and join us, or while we are in bed she’d come into our room and use our dressing mirror and other stuff. Is this normal? Shouldn't she respect our matrimonial bed/home?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is unusual, but not unheard of. If it has reached its tolerance for you, speak with your husband. His sister has some serious issues. He will need to deliver the news to her that your privacy needs to be respected. It’s best that way. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Meddling Mother-In-Law Wants Explanations

How do I respond to my daughter-in-law excluding my daughter from my granddaughter's birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter and daughter-in-law don't exactly get along.  I've tried to tell them that when we have family functions we can all be civil and adult.  My daughter-in-law is having a 3rd birthday party for my grand baby and chose to leave my daughter and her husband and child out.  My daughter really loves the little niece, but my daughter-in-law doesn't want them there.  They did invite us and many other family and friends. 

How do I handle this?  Do my husband and I still go, but ask them why she wasn't invited?  Or do we go and not mention this at all?  It hurts me too because I feel that is very rude and selfish. When they are all together there has never been an outburst or altercation, so I can't see why this would be any different?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  As with any party, celebration, or event of any kind, the host has full control of the guest list. What is rude is asking for an explanation as to why someone was not invited, so my advice is to go with your second option. Furthermore the relationship your daughter has with her sister-in-law is not your responsibility, is it? As difficult as it may be, meddle less, enjoy them on their own terms more. 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.

Mother's Day Invite Dilemma

Am I obligated to go to an annual Mother's Day event even if my husband won't be there? 

Dear Jay,
Every year on Mother's Day we go out to breakfast with my husband's mother and the rest of his family.  This year, however, my husband will be out of town over Mother's Day.  Am I still obligated to go to breakfast with his family?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: No, you are never obligated to accept any invitation. If you don’t want to go out, give your regrets. It’s perfectly fine. 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.

Brother bothered by lack of uncle participation

How do I tell my brother that I am not really interested in coming to his kid's elementary school activities? 

Dear Jay,
I invited my brother and his young son to our daughter’s college graduation.  In turn, he invited us to his son’s elementary school chorus concert. He's complained in the past that we don't attend his son’s activities or do things with his son which is not true. I really don't want to go to an elementary chorus concert. Our kids had a lot of these type events and we never invited family, thinking it was a parent event not an extended family event. It's a 30 minute ride one way. If he doesn't attend our daughter’s graduation I won't be offended, but I'm afraid if we don't attend his son’s concert he will be.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are under no obligation to attend this concert. You and your brother should be able to have a brief discussion about this. It’s a very small matter. If he is going to get worked up about it, that’s really his problem to deal with. You can apologize for not going, but I think honesty is the best policy. You did nothing to apologize for, really. Tell it to him just like you told me. Your life experience is totally valid. Graduations and school choral events are quite different! 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.

Graduation dinner dilemma

Who should pay for my son's family when we take him out for his graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I would like to take my son and his family out to lunch after his graduation, my husband only feels we should pay for my son, but I think we should pay for our daughter-in-law and grandkids, too. Who's right?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are right. If your husband wants to only pay for your son, don’t invite his family. Your husband might do well to be grateful that he has the opportunity to share in the celebration of this important milestone. 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.

Ex-boyfriend is now the brother-in-law

Is it okay if I contact my ex-boyfriend (who is now my brother-in-law) about being my business partner? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to contact my ex-boyfriend who has been my brother-in-law for 6 years? I just don’t know if it is ok to communicate with him and just treat each other as siblings in law because of our past.

I don't want to refuse my in-law's invitation anymore for Christmas, Fiesta or New Year’s just to keep away from my ex-boyfriend. I am very close with my husband’s parents, aunties, uncles and his siblings. We enjoy each other's company, and they treated me like their own sister, daughter and niece.

In 2013, my ex-boyfriend and I became friends and had regular communication through Facebook since he is working in Japan as an OFW. We decided to become business partners, with my husband's consent of course. Just a few weeks ago, he sent me a nice message on my birthday. I never expected it, and  I was so happy and thanked him, but he never texted me again. My brother-in-law (ex-boyfriend) is getting married this year and wants my youngest daughter to be part of the entourage.

I have so many plans for our parents and his younger brothers and sister. I want him to be my business partner because he has the potential and the skills and the bigger share of our profits will be for my in-laws. I cannot do it on my own because my husband and I also have another business for our kids’ future. What do you think I should do? 

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There is no reason for you not to be friends with an ex-boyfriend. You can be business partners, too. Work at resolving misunderstandings as soon as they occur. My advice is to do what’s best for you and your family. If having a business relationship with your ex is what’s best, do it. 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.

Thank you for car loaning

How do we express our thanks to my mother-in-law for allowing our son to use her spare car? 

Dear Jay,
Should I be expected to thank, in person or through the use of a thank you note, my ex-mother-in-law for allowing my son, her grandson, to borrow her car (which is a spare car), until his mother, her daughter, and I are able to buy one for him ourselves?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Spare or not, what a kind and generous offer. Of course you should thank her! Why wouldn’t you? And so should your son! Hand written thank you notes do not go out of style when families break apart. Teach your children the right thing to do. Gratitude can not be overstated. By the way, you should pay for the insurance and maintenance on the car. 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.

Easter Hostess Skills

What do I do about my sister-in-law's ineptitude about hosting Easter at her house? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and his wife usually host Easter for our family and his wife's family. Three years ago on Easter his father in law passed away suddenly. Since then, Easter is becoming a point of contention between myself and my sister-in-law. 

This Easter (three years later), my sister-in-law planned and scheduled the egg hunt according to her own families' availability. She texted me the time of the egg hunt the day before; 10:30 a.m., which did not work for us because my husband had to work in the morning. Then after questioning her about why it was so early, I learned that she had planned this around her own family but did not ask anyone in my family what worked for them. 

In addition to that, she doesn't exactly host all of Easter; she has the egg hunt at her house and the rest of us (mostly my side of the family) bring the food, ham included, because no one in her family will or can cook (this is another point of contention; in my family if you host it, you do the major cooking). This year, she asked my grandmother to make the main meal; my grandmother is only partially retired and had to work on Easter (and on my side of the family has been relieved of hosting holiday dinners). I feel like if her family wants to celebrate Easter among themselves then they should be honest about it with my family. The way things happened this year made myself and others feel like second class guests who were only invited to provide the food for THEIR Easter. 

I did text her back and expressed my feelings as delicately as I could, but they were not met well. In fact, my sister-in-law's mother got on Facebook and posted a vague, passive-aggressive status that was directed towards me (which I ignored), and she has made other posts on my Facebook since then. I don't know if I am right, just how the whole situation made me feel and I'd really appreciate another view point.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your sister-in-law invited you to an Easter egg hunt, which was to be followed by a meal. Your only obligation is to either accept the invitation or regret it. You do not need to concern yourself with how the party was planned or how the food is being organized. It’s none of your business because it isn’t your party. Perhaps next year, when you host the party, you will do things differently, which is your prerogative. Obviously your style of communication wasn’t as delicate as you had planned. You owe them an apology for butting in where you didn’t belong. Apologies go hand in hand with forgiveness. You would do well to look at the principle of Responsibility. Take responsibility for what is yours; leave the rest to the others. 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.

Boyfriend on Family Trip . . . Uh oh

What's the etiquette for rooming with my boyfriend on a family trip? 

Dear Jay,
My boyfriend is coming on a trip with my family. Is it ok to ask my family that my boyfriend stay with us (sharing a room with me and my brother) or should we pay for our own room? We're in our mid to late twenties and have been dating for 3 years. My parents don't 100% approve of my boyfriend, but I am hoping for a fun trip where we can all get along. Suggestions?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There are a a lot of obvious questions that come to mind such as why are you going on this trip if there’s such tension? I have to assume you’ve already asked and satisfactorily answered this and similar ones. That being the case, from a strict etiquette point of view, if your parents are hosting, i.e., paying for this trip, then you and your brother share a room, and your b/f has his own room. Or, your b/f and your brother share a room and you have the single. If you had been living together for three years, the answer would be different. 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.

Twin Excluded From Birthday Party

How do I handle my brother making singular family plans for our joint / twin 70th birthday celebration? 

Dear Jay,
I am a twin, and my brother and I will be 70 soon. My mother who is 95 just told me my brother has organized a party, so she said she would provide a cake for us. He then said the party was only for him and his family and my mum. My mom doesn’t know what to do because she wants to see both of us on our birthday.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I suggest that you phone your brother. He may be confused. If this is the case, be gentle and compassionate, and take note. If he’s not confused, and there’s no criminal reason for you to be excluded, he needs a reminder to mind his manners. Your mother is 95. He should be as grateful as you and your mother are to have such longevity. 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.

Deep Cleaning Needed

When we stay with my parents, is it rude to provide a cleaning service while we are there if the house is a wreck? 

Dear Jay,
I live very far away with my husband and 2 small children so we don't get to visit grandparents more than once every 2 years or so. When we visit, we generally try to stay at least 2 weeks but this time, I arranged for a 5-week visit after confirming with my dad and step-mom that the longer visit would be ok.  They both work full time and can't take off much time during our visit, but we will maximize time together during evenings and weekends.

My conundrum is because they are so busy with work, basic housecleaning is neglected. The toilets have rings in the basins and there is dog hair everywhere. They have two large dogs who are inside dogs and allowed to be on furniture. While my kids have not been diagnosed with any specific allergies, they have both developed runny noses within the first few days of being here and I can't help but think it is associated with all the pet dander.  I'd really like to pay for a weekly cleaning service while we are staying here, but am pretty sure they will be offended when/if I bring it up. I'm not sure how to proceed. I realize I could just roll up my sleeves and do some cleaning myself, but I'd rather outsource it and spend the time playing with my kids instead. Help please? Is it totally rude to offer to clean or pay for cleaning for the home you are visiting?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your dilemma. One principle I promote to all house guests is to leave the place in better state (if possible) than when you arrived. So doing a little bit here and there yourself would certainly show gratitude. If you sense that she can’t afford a cleaning service, you might suggest giving her five  cleanings in thanks for the five weeks you’ve been houseguests. Otherwise this may well turn into a Golden Opportunity to teach the kids how much fun housekeeping can be! 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.

Footing the Graduation Celebration Bill

Are we responsible for paying the bill for our daughter's graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is having an immediate family dinner celebration for her college graduation.  Along with her parents and sisters, we will have her aunt, two cousins and one of the cousins husbands in attendance.  My daughter wants to have the dinner celebration at nice sit down restaurant where we live.  Should my husband and I pay for everyone's dinner in attendance or should they be responsible to cover their own?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you and your husband are hosting this dinner, you will be responsible for the bill. If you want this to be Dutch Treat in some fashion, you must clear this with the others before moving forward. In such case, you would not be the host, as it would be a jointly sponsored party. Whichever choice you make, have a wonderful celebration for a very special occasion! 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.

Mother of the Bride Wants to Be Involved More

How do I get my daughter to understand that I should have a bigger role in her wedding planning? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter was recently engaged. Her father and I have been divorced for over 15 years and we are both remarried. She has been living on her own for several years. I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role in the wedding and thought that she understood that as well. She is wanting to include the step mother in a great deal of the planning. She is even considering having the ceremony at one of the step mother's family’s homes, after we had discussed having the ceremony at our home. She feels she has to do what her father wants or he won't pay for the wedding. These actions by her hurt my feelings and I've told her this. She gets upset and voices to me that she wants me to put my feelings aside for "just one day", but she doesn't voice those same feelings to her dad or step mom. I just feel that her wedding is a bonding experience between the two of us and some of the planning should be just between us and not include the step mom. How can I get her to understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do not think it advisable to “get her to understand this”, nor do I think she would have the slightest interest. She has her idea of what her dream wedding process is, and you have yours. She’s the bride, so she gets to make that decision by herself. In my opinion, she is well within her rights, and her common sense, to carry on as she sees fit. I understand where your pain is coming from, but as she requested, “just one day”. Your first mistake appears on line one above - “I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role…….” That was an invalid assumption, and things continue down hill. My best advice is for you to step back and allow your daughter to make her own choices about her most important day. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Too Much for the Hostess

How do I say "no more" without sounding horrible when it comes to hosting a shower and hosting family at my home? 

Dear Jay,
I am hosting a shower for my nephew’s bride to be. Relatives are coming in from out of town, including the parents of my nephew (they are my deceased husband’s sibling). They are staying with us, as are my nephew and his bride to be. They called today to ask if the bride’s parents could also stay here that weekend. I was a bit taken aback. I have never met them and will be very busy hosting the shower. I was unsure how to respond. I did mention there's a hotel in town and they may feel more comfortable staying there. I'm a bit perturbed by being put on the spot like this, as I feel I'm already extending my house to several people AND hosting a bridal shower. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, you are not being unreasonable. Be firm but understanding of their dilemma - albeit self-induced. You do not need to give one word of an explanation if you don’t want to. When the house is full, the house is full. And that’s your call; and that’s that! I hope this helps.
Jay

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Niece's Party Dilemma

Should I still attend my niece's birthday party even if my son will be with his dad that day? 

Dear Jay,
My 7 year old son will not be at my 5 years old niece's birthday party. Should I still go without him when my brother knows my son can't be there because he will be with his dad (I am divorced)? For 4 years, I have not had my so with me on this particular day of the week. The entire family knows this well.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You should still go. Perhaps you plan ahead and make some sort of special arrangement for this day next year. Seems like a rather small request to me. Take a nice gift and enjoy the party! I hope this helps.

Jay

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Private Room Necessity

Is it selfish of me to ask for the private room if we are paying for the trip? 

Dear Jay,
My husband booked a hotel for a week long vacation. We paid for the room and were going to go alone, but we thought my mother-in-law might have fun too and invited her. My father-in-law who generally prefers not to travel, then decided he wanted to come too. The hotel is a suite with one private bedroom and a living room with a sofa bed. I am currently experiencing some medical issues and privacy is something I really prefer to have. It makes it much more possible for me to go on the trip and allows me to go to bed earlier when I get tired while everyone else can stay up and talk. Without the room, I'd have to seriously reconsider my going, which would be very disappointing since I really want to go and I had to miss out on the last trip like this.

In the past, when we've been in these situations, we've given them the private room just because they are older than us. Is it rude if we take the private room? What determines room assignments, age or who paid? I don't think they'd be upset, but I also don't want them to think I'm being selfish.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are far from being selfish! To begin with, room assignments, with no extenuating circumstances, goes by who pays and then by order of precedence (oldest, most respected, etc.). In your case however, your health is an extenuating circumstance. That trumps the rest; plus you’re the one who’s paying. You are entitled to the room. Remember to follow The Golden Rule. It goes both ways :). I hope this helps.

Jay

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Booted Over Supposed Argument

How do we react to getting kicked out of my son's house? 

Dear Jay,
We stayed at our son’s place. His wife thought my husband and I were arguing on the back verandah. She told us to leave because she didn't want her house contaminated in case she had children. How do we treat this situation now after what happened?

Thank you and awaiting your reply in anticipation.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This sounds bizarre, almost cultish. I suggest you have a chat with your son. He will want to get to the bottom of this, one would hope. Explain what happened and how it made you feel. Don’t be accusatory or defensive. You are due an apology, and if you can find it in your hearts to forgive and have compassion for this woman, do so. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Violent Attack Over Beer

What should I do to try and keep the peace after a violent fight in my family? 

Dear Jay,
About a year ago my 5 month old, husband, and I went to my sister's house for my brother-in-law's birthday party. My husband brought a couple beers with him and as soon as we arrived my husband asked my brother-in-law if it was alright that he drink in his home. My brother-in-law said, “Yes, of course!"

About 30-45 minutes go by and my brother-in-law's dad decided to get in my husband's face about him drinking, in front of just my dad and a family friend, and proceeded to yell and scream and call him names. My husband came inside and told me to put our daughter in her car seat so we could leave. My husband went outside to get the car ready to go and while I was putting my daughter in her car seat my brother-in-law's father decided to start yelling at me, too. Names were called on both sides, and my husband came back inside and a fight almost broke out but was stopped by my dad and oldest nephew. My brother-in-law also had an older brother that was there. He decided to get a huge pipe from the bed of his truck and threaten my husband with it. I got my husband and daughter in the car and drove away. Next thing I know, the brother tried running us off the road with his truck, that he had his pregnant wife and 2 other children in with him. 

I was so shaken I just parked the car and let them drive away. Now it has been over a year and my niece and nephews birthday parties are coming up. My sister has invited all of us to the same party for each child. What would be the best way to handle the situation without hurting the children's or my sister's feeling and without having to put my child and husband in that situation again?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is not an issue about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is a safety issue. Obviously there is a good reason why there is no drinking at your in-laws, and the first mistake was crossing that boundary. Even though the host said it was okay to drink, the question should never have been asked. When one goes to a non-drinking household, that rule must be respected. The father-in-law is no treat either. He had no business spouting off, but there are people like that in the world. My advice is to avoid them and detach from them. In the future, your husband should refrain from drinking at your sister’s house. Her husband needs to speak with his family and explain that in his house, he rules, without needing any help from either his father or brother - both of whom are thugs. Children should never be exposed to such displays of fighting and swearing. It is your job as mother to protect your daughter. Removing her from the situation was the right thing to do. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unexpected Visits a No No

How can I get my mom to understand that I don't want her to drop by unexpectedly? 

Dear Jay,
We smoke - my mother does not, so out of consideration I ask my mother to call before she visits -- she does not! I am 58 years old and she is 78 years old -- I have requested this for numerous years!!  My sons ask her also to call before she visits-- she does not!! Then she doesn't understand why it upsets us! please help me!!

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Smoking has very little to do with this. I would imagine you don’t want people just popping in anyway. Make it a house rule, and suggest to your sons that they do the same. What this in fact does is show that you have respect for your privacy and for your house. Explain this concept to your mother. None of us are too old to learn to behave. Let her know she may well be turned away at the door if she doesn’t give you a heads up. Let’s hope this works. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unequal Vacation Payment

Is it wrong for my friend to think her 18 year old daughter should vacation for free? 

Dear Jay,
We are making plans to vacation in Florida next August 2016. There will be 5 people traveling together, and we plan on renting a house for our stay where we will each have our own rooms.


My question is, should my friend’s daughter, who will be turning 18 around that time, be able to stay for free? My friend seems to think that her daughter should stay for free at the house and that the rest of us, including herself, should make up the difference.

I don't think it's our responsibility to pay for her daughter’s stay and that either her daughter or herself should be responsible. I also do not want to be unfair about it either.

What would you suggest?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The solution is to divide the whole bill by 5. One couple pays for 2 people, the other couple pays for 3. This would include food, rent, gas, etc. Everyone is an adult. The responsibility for the daughter is her parents’. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Car Wars

How do I get my daughter to understand that although I want to help her out, that my car is mine, not hers? 

Dear Jay,
I have a 37 year old daughter and 3 grandchildren who live close by. my daughter, now divorced, no job, has child support coming in and her car has been out of service for 6 months. I started letting her borrow my car for normal errands. It seems to be getting out of control. She even had her own key made! She feels I should let her use it for personal use.

I don't mind her using my car when I am working, but evenings I like my car to be available for me. She wants to take my car the night and weekends, and she wants me to babysit. This leaves me with no car all night until the next day. Or lately, I have evening functions and she wants to use my car the same night. She wants me to find another way! She does put gas in it, but lately she has it more than I do. Am I wrong? My husband works all different shifts so his car is not always available. How do I put a stop to this? I feel like I am enabling her to rely too much in many areas she should be doing on her own.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think you have a very clear read on the situation. I would highly recommend that you seek family counseling - just you and your daughter. I think a counselor can explain in such a way that your daughter can feel as though she is part of the solution and not just a problem. In the meantime you need to lay out some ground rules. These are non-negotiable. The car needs to be a part of this. You and your husband make up the rules. Your daughter (and both of you) follow them. If you do not show your daughter that you have respect for your “castle” and your car, she might think she shouldn’t either. It is hard for a mother to detach, which is why I am suggesting professional assistance. I hope this helps.

Jay

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No Thank You Notes = No Gifts

Is it time for me to stop sending my adult nephews birthday gifts especially since they never express gratitude? 

Dear Jay,
I have 3 adult nephews in their 20's. I'm starting to not feel the joy of giving them birthday gifts. When I do send gifts, they can't be bothered to send a thank you or acknowledge them. I was raised and still practice immediately sending hand written thank you notes to someone who has taken time to send me gifts and get frustrated when they can't even text me thank you. I would take a text even! My middle nephew turned 25, and I recently expressed to my mother my frustration and said I wasn't going to get him anything. She was horrified that I would even think this.

At what point can we stop giving our adult nieces and nephews gifts? I'm willing to do a card, but feel I shouldn't have to keep spending money when my husband or I don't even get at thank you. I would rather spend the money on my little young nephews and see the joy they get from opening their gifts and playing with what we get them.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. I don’t understand what your mother’s point is. Of course you should be acknowledged! I would give them each a lovely box of note cards as your final effort. If this doesn’t get through to them, strike them from your list. Remember the Golden Rule and Common Sense. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unreasonable Requests

Am I being unreasonable with putting restrictions on how many people stay at our home and limiting the duration of the visit? 

Dear Jay,
My partner’s daughter is graduating from high school in a few months and family from out of town will be visiting. My partner would like to host all of them at our home. There will be at least 7 people coming and we have one spare room. I suggested we could host 3 comfortably (his mother, daughter and grandchild), but perhaps the other 4 (brother, sister-in-law and their two 19yr olds) could get a hotel room which we would pay for.  There is a chance they want to stay for over a week, and I explained I just simply would not be able to have that many people in our house for that period of time. For 2-3 days sure, I could suck it up, but any longer and I just don't think I could do it. He feels I'm being extremely unreasonable and is barely speaking to me. We have a small house to begin with and two other children at home. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your partner needs to smarten up. He is the one who is being unreasonable, not to mention disrespectful. It’s your house, too. Decisions of this nature need to be agreed upon. This is a relatively easy discussion to have. I would sort this out by letting your partner know how his actions make you feel. If he doesn’t seem to care, you have bigger problems on the horizon. I hope this helps.

Jay

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50/50 fairness for visiting families

Even if we don't enjoy visiting my husband's family, he insists that we still need to be fair and visit each side of the family equally.  Should I agree with him? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I don't get along with his family, but my husband says we still need to split holidays 50/50 between my family and his to be fair. My in-laws live far away and expect us to rent a car or take a cab when we fly to come visit them. I find this rude as we barely see them, I'd expect them to want to spend time with us and it is very expensive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The issue here revolves around the comment on fairness. To whom are you being fair? Certainly not yourselves. I think you need to reset your priorities. If neither of you want to spend time with his parents, you are under no obligation to do so. Who knows, maybe they’d rather see less of you two also. This is not an issue about time and money. It is an issue about respect. You are not showing yourselves the respect you should. As a result, no one else will either. My advice is to remove the mantel of being a victim and start calling your own shots. Being resentful of people you do not like is a waste of energy; spending time with them is a waste of time. Not all families get along, nor do they have to. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Too much time and energy for the niece, not enough for me

How do I talk to my husband about what I think is an inappropriate relationship that he has with his niece? 

Dear Jay,
My 46 year old husband goes to his 30 year old niece to discuss the problems in our marriage rather than communicate with me. He also does things for her (such as yard work, welds Christmas tree stands, etc.) and asks her not to tell me because I will get upset that he doesn't take the time to do things for me. I saw texts and calls between them at all hours of the night on his phone. I find something to be wrong with this. Your opinion?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you; something is terribly wrong. I suggest you discuss this with your husband, not your niece. This may be an uncomfortable discussion, but any relationship that is expected to last must have the component of honesty. State facts, but let your husband know how discovering these facts makes you feel. Do not be accusatory, but rather take the responsibility for your feelings completely, all the while asking for his understanding. He does need to provide an explanation, and will likely be more willing if this discussion is not confrontational. Professional counseling may well be in order. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Not until they are married

How do I tell my daughter that I love her, but don't want to do a couple's vacation with her and her boyfriend? 

Dear Jay,
We have one daughter who is our pride and joy.  She’s a wonderful child, student, and athlete. She recently graduated college and moved back home because she got a job in our area.  We are thrilled to have her back home.  She's dated but never seriously until recently and I think this may actually be "The One". He's eight years older, very settled, and we like him just fine. She goes and stays with him on weekends, and they have been on a number of vacations and trips over the past year. She recently suggested we all go on a vacation together. I'm not a prude; however, I am not comfortable with this idea since they are not married.  I am okay with the two of them going places and doing things, but I just don't feel comfortable doing the couple's thing with me and my husband since they are not married. Is this wrong? She knows my opinion about things, but I respect her decisions as well. I'm not sure how I should  explain this to her?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Having an open and honest discussion with your daughter is important, and it should not be fraught with fear of rejection. I always advise that honesty is the best policy. But, be open to listening to your daughter’s point of view. She may be able to make you see things from her perspective. No one is wrong or right in this situation, but people’s feelings are all valid. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Funeral etiquette for distant relatives

What is a proper way to pay our respects for our daughter-in-law's grandfather who we didn't know? 

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette for attending the funeral of a daughter-in-law's grandfather?  The funeral is three hours away, and we did not know him or any of the family other than my daughter-in-law. Should we attend? Should we send flowers or should we consider something else?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The choice is yours, but I would think a note of condolence and a contribution to the charity of choice would suffice. If your son indicates that your support would be appreciated, consider going. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Awkward 2 Year Old Twins Party

Even if I feel uncomfortable, should I still attend my granddaughters' birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
Should I go to my granddaughters’ (twins) 2 year old birthday party when my son is locked up in prison and the other family has not liked him. Also, the baby's mother is seeing someone else, and the maternal grandmother has kept them from seeing us even before this because my son broke up with her daughter and was seeing someone else. I am very uncomfortable going, and I do get the twins once a month at my house for which I meet them and they are always 45 minutes to 1 hour late. Should I stay away from their family functions and not go even though they will say that we have acted as though we're not interested in the girls lives, or do I go because it is the right thing to do? The twins have a half brother, and I thought that maybe I will take him? What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you are invited to such functions, you have the option to attend or not. If you are not invited, you should not attend. Since you see them every month anyway, I would not bother going, but you could certainly drop off gifts, just not near the time of the party. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Brother Block

Do I really need to invite my loud mouth brother-in-law to my husband's party if my husband wants him there? 

Dear Jay,
It is my husband's birthday, and I am throwing a party with some help from his 3 grown-up children. He rarely speaks to his brother and his wife even though they live close by.  They don't get along well as his brother is a loud mouthed and obnoxious person who cannot stop talking, mostly about all his medical problems.  Somehow, my husband found out about the party and asked if his brother was invited, to which I replied NO.  He would like him to come.  What do you suggest I do?  The party is in 3 days.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Invite him. This party is about your husband, not you. I know it’s a drag, but sometimes, especially like on birthdays, we have to put our best foot forward. Look at this as an opportunity to fine tune your “just going to ignore him” skill. Be cordial and be thankful for your husband and his children. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Not given a proper invite to mom's party

Should I approach my sister about her negligence for not properly inviting me to my mom's 70th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and brother decided to throw a 70th birthday party for my mother. I am the oldest child, my sister and brother are 3 and 6 years younger than me.  I am not close to my sister, and she has not invited me to any events for her children since my father passed away in 2007 - and even prior to 2007 I was only invited because my father would not go if I was not extended an invitation.  I invite my sister to every event I have with proper mailed invitation because like my father, I believe we are family and the bottom line is we cannot change that and when push comes to shove that is all you have in this world.  (Clearly there are some issues here between my sister and I - I have tried to address them, but do not get a response so I stopped and just try to do the right thing.)   

I am a little upset that my sister included my brother in this planning, but did not ask me to be part of the party planning.  Not only that, but she did not send me an invitation.  The day the RSVP's were due, when my brother realized I was not on the list he texted me a picture of the invitation and asked if I was free.  All the RSVP information on the invites were for my sister.  I am going because it is my mother's 70th birthday, and I love my mom.  Is it wrong to address the hurt feelings with my sister including the lack of proper invitation?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I advise that you take the high road on this one. Let’s look at the facts. Your brother and sister are hosting a party, to which you are going because the guest of honor is your mother. Your role is mainly that of a guest, with some seniority being the eldest daughter. Do not bring up any topic with your sister that might cause anyone any stress. If this means avoiding her other to thank her for hosting such a lovely party, then so be it. There will hopefully be plenty of other people for you to chat with. I am not condoning your sister’s disrespectful (clueless) behavior, but I see no advantage to stirring the pot at the party. After the party, in private, by all means let your sister know how her actions made you feel. Your feelings are valid. I would hope your sister would want the same consideration were the shoe on the other foot. I hope this helps.



Jay

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Dysfunctional family falling apart with social media

How do I fix the relationship with my husband's dad and his step mom? 

Dear Jay,
My 9 year old daughter (my husband’s stepdaughter) auditioned and was accepted to get in to dance in the parades and on stage in Disney Land (in April 2015). At the time this was planned in 2013 my husband had a job; however, between then and when the money became due to pay the remaining amount for the trip he had lost his job. Although we paid for my daughter to go, we were unable to afford to pay for us.

It was suggested to us to ask my husband’s parents for the money to borrow and repay so we could see her dancing in Disney. I initially did not want to ask, but gave in as I figured the worst they could say is no. Which when we asked they did say no. 

Last week I saw my husband’s dad post on Facebook about him and his wife going on a cruise, and I became a little upset, not because they have money to go on a holiday, but seeing this makes me upset I cannot be there for my daughter. I figured it was rude to ask them not to post, the issue is mine not theirs, so I blocked my husband’s parents on Facebook so I wouldn't become upset when they posted about it.

My husband’s step mother became so irate that even though she was due to look after my 1 year old son (her offer) as my husband had a job interview, she refused. I realized that she obviously was hurt I blocked her on Facebook, so I texted to apologize and explain why I did it.

Instead of accepting my apology she texted me back with a barrage of insults and called me names, told me to grow up and pay my bills, and insulted my daughter saying she was spoiled and needed to stop expecting everything she wants. She insulted me so much I texted back to stand up for myself. I did not call her names, but I did say one thing I regret which is that after my husband read her response he advised me that "They've finally pushed away the last of Dad's kids to speak to him". Even though it’s true, I feel like I should push him to carry on a relationship with them.

My husband’s Dad has allowed his new wife to berate each of my husband’s two sisters and brother so much none of them have contacted or seen him for over 3 years. My husband has Aspergers and has taken a LOT from his Dad and step mum, but because family is important to him, he allows it to continue. He never stands up for me especially when his Dad wrecked our wedding day by causing a scene and storming out just before his speech.

My husband said until his step mother apologizes to me he will not see his dad or her. Do you have any advice on what I can do as I know neither or them will apologize, and while I do not want to see them, I do not want to deprive my kids of the only grandfather they have and my husband of his father?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This situation illustrates one of the downfalls of social media, especially in a dysfunctional family, which by the way, most of us live in. You must take full responsibility for this fiasco as you caused it. You are going to need to make further apologies, and take your medicine. There is no point to trying to defend yourself when you are wrong. An apology and asking for forgiveness will work far more effectively. They may not be quick to forgive you. They may have felt that betrayed by you. 



Jay

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Problems with Parents

How should I handle the way my parents choose to grandparent unequally and badmouth my husband? 

Dear Jay,
I am 27 and am married with two children under 4 and one on the way.

My parents will invite my oldest daughter out to things, never my 1 year old or myself and definitely not my husband.  They even asked me to allow them to take her out for a couple of weeks away.  I keep saying no to long trips but ok to trips that take maybe an hour or two.  Should I be offended by how they seem to want to play family and exclude the rest of us as if she is not our daughter, but theirs?  Also, should I be offended on behalf of my younger daughter?

Also, should I be offended that my parents judge my husband for finally choosing to go to college while our children are young so that he can better our world?  They judge him because he isn't well paid like my sister's husband who has been known to cheat on her and their child? They bad mouth him constantly to me and our children; am I wrong to tell them if they don't stop that they can't be near their grandchildren anymore?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: First of all, you cannot be offended unless you hand over your power to someone else and allow them to offend you. So, no, you should not be offended by any of this. I would side with your parents as far as the visit issue is concerned. I wouldn’t want to go out with a one-year old either. Sometimes bonding with a grandchild is best done one-on-one. Perhaps that is what they prefer. As to bad-mouthing, there should be none of that, especially around the children (no matter how young). You and your husband need to communicate more and establish some house rules which everyone will live by. Your home is your castle. Show it the respect it deserves and others will soon follow. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Grown Children Footing the Bill

How do I tell my grown children that it would be nice for them to pay for the dinner bill from time to time? 

Dear Jay,
We have always treated our kids when going out to dinner, hardly ever do they pay for the bill when it comes.

Our kids are all grown and working good jobs. Is it ok to teach them to reciprocate and treat us to lunch or dinner once in a while? How do I bring it up with them? I feel it is a good thing to teach them.

Your thoughts as soon as possible.

Thanks!

Candy

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. Teaching children to have gratitude is an important gift. Reciprocation fits into the gratitude category. I would approach the subject from a “when you are treated to a meal or the movies by other people, not us of course, you do remember to reciprocate, don’t you?” The trick here is to not come off as having this be about you. Parents customarily do pay for their children, in some circles forever! But this is not a habit or courtesy that should be practiced outside of immediate family. Even then, it’s not equitable, but sometimes parents insist as it gives them a sense of usefulness, connection, and joy. The subject is an awkward one, and this illustrates just how important teaching these skills by example is, and from an early age. Such teaching avoids such awkward moments down the road. I say this because the conversation may feel awkward, but nonetheless, it is an important one to have. I guarantee you, your children will start treating you from now on from time to time. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Vacation Home Dream Becomes a Nightmare

Am I being stingy, or should we limit the amount of time family members can use our vacation home? 

Dear Jay,
My partner (of 20 years) and I purchased a vacation condo in Florida two years ago.  Although we only get to spend about 10 weeks a year there, we love having this place, which we look at as a peaceful haven, where we leave the stresses of everyday life behind.  Our lanai overlooks a golf course and lake, we have the use of two beautiful community pools, and are a 25 minute drive to many attractive beaches.  It truly has the feel of resort living.

When we purchased it, we agreed that part of the fun would be to share it with family and close friends.  We have had lots of alone time there, but have also had some wonderful visits with close friends, spending quality time with them that no one seems to have the time for back home in the North East.  I even got to spend a wonderful five day visit with my closest cousin-just the two of us, talking and laughing about everything.  All great times.

We agreed to let siblings and their families visit on their own, as we can't spend our vacations with everyone, and there is only room for four people to stay at one time.  My brother and his wife visited last year, and haven't asked to come back again.  They left the place as neat as they found it.

This January my partner's brother and his family made their first visit.  We knew from the way that they kept their own house that cleanliness would be a problem, so my partner paid a cleaning lady to come in after they left.  Brother and family had the time of their lives, texting and phoning to tell us that our place is gorgeous, they loved going to the beach everyday, this is the best vacation of their lives, and basically they felt like they were in Heaven.  They left balloons, flowers, card, wine....ok, they were very appreciative.  I knew they wanted to go back again, that is for sure.  Then, much to my surprise, within one week of leaving our condo, they called with a request to visit again just TWO months later.  I have to say, I was taken aback, and became concerned this would become a pattern- that they would want to visit as often as we would let them.  My partner assured me that they can't afford to go that often, and since the condo was empty when they asked to return, she wasn't going to say no to them.  They are there as I write this.  The kicker is that my partner arranged to see a business client in FL this week, and will drive over to the condo after Brother and family leave so she can clean up after their mess.

I am fearful that they will really take advantage of our vacation home if we let them.  I am trying to talk to my partner about being preemptive, and setting limits for family visits...I think two visits per year per sibling is more than generous.  If we state this to family upfront, it will let them know that we have our limits, and will relieve me of the stress of wondering when the next request might come.  My partner doesn't even want to start this conversation.  She said "I don't want to ruin my relationship with my brother".  Are you kidding me?  He wouldn't want to ruin his chance of having those two visits.

My partner thinks that I am being stingy.  If our condo is sitting there empty, why shouldn't someone else be able to enjoy it.  I don't want to be taken advantage of, or have to worry about how we are going to deal with other's messes all of the time. We spent a lot of money on new carpeting and furniture, and would like things to stay in nice condition for as long as possible.  Is it crazy for me to want to set limits on annual visits?  This isn't what I envisioned when we first discussed sharing our condo with friends and family.  Our little peace of heaven is now becoming a source of stress for me.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I rarely advise compromise, but in this situation, that is going to be my recommendation. I sense that in the end however, that the result will be seen as all-win. You must realize that the stories you are telling yourself about this situation are the cause of your stress. Realize that you do not fully understand the relationship your partner and her brother have. You don’t really need to. Just allow your partner to host her brother and his family. If wear and tear and cleaning become an issue, then address the problem. But as they say, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. 
On the other hand, your home is your castle, and having general house rules that you and your partner agree to is very reasonable and appropriate. Your partner should respect your feelings that result from the angst over worrying about how your condo is being used. You may want to relax your concerns until such time as they are warranted, but there are plenty of other rules that should be established for safety and emergency reasons anyway. Establishing such house rules or policies will establish a respect and sense of gratitude that may have needed strengthening. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Ex-husband rules for sleepovers

Can my ex stay over at my mom and dad's house? 

Dear Jay,
Is it disrespectful for my ex to spend the night at my parents’ house with our child?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think this all depends on the circumstances; but in general, if the host (your parents) invites him to stay, there is no disrespect. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Sister-in-law's huffy response to party guests

How should I respond to my sister-in-law inviting her daughter's boyfriend to my husband's 45th birthday party without my consent? 

Dear Jay,
I had a 45th birthday party for my husband. It was an adult party, but I did invite a few of the teens to attend.  My niece texted my daughter asking if she could bring her boyfriend, and I told her not tonight another time (we have never met her boyfriend before). My sister-in-law let my niece bring him without calling or texting us for permission. When she arrived she went  right to my daughter and questioned her why she told her daughter she couldn't bring her boyfriend.  Then she pulled me aside and asked me why it was such a big deal. I told her the party was about her brother and his 45th birthday, and I didn't want extra kids here.  Her kids were invited, of course.  She was very upset and stormed out yelling and making a big commotion within 15 minutes from arriving.

Now she wants nothing to do with us. I don't feel that I was wrong, but now I feel guilty.

What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This goes way beyond being right or wrong. This is about a serious lack of respect within this family, and a serious inability to communicate without being uncivil. My advice is quite simple. You are the host. You set the guest list, and you have to answer your guests questions, whether they are appropriate or not. You must take full responsibility for this disruption and apologize to everyone involved by explaining what your motives were. What were your motives? Whatever they were, they have pushed more than a few buttons, and have caused a lot of stress. You owe everyone whom you have treated this way an apology and explanation. You owe this to yourself, too, if for no other reason so that you don’t make these mistakes again! I hope this helps.



Jay

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Information on funding

How can I properly check on the status of my funding when I need it right now? 

Dear Jay,
I was considered as a candidate for financial hardship from a Breast cancer foundation.  What would be the proper way to check the status of the financial help they are sending to me due to the need of it now?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I am sorry to hear you are battling cancer. I do hope you have a full and speedy recovery. My advice is to call them on the telephone. You want to establish a relationship with someone at the foundation on a professional, yet somewhat personal level. Health and finances are two huge concerns to everyone. I do not think this is a suitable email topic yet. Establish a contact; inquire of them what the status of your candidacy is; follow up with email - be sure to get their email address. I hope this helps.



Jay

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Hurt over son's bad manners

Should my son be responsible for introducing me to his college girlfriend and her parents? 

Dear Jay,
My 17 year old son just starting dating a girlfriend which he hasn't brought home yet to meet me. When I met him at a college orientation she was with him and her parents sitting several rows behind them.  Who should introduce me to the girl and her parents? I was totally blindsided as my son told me he wanted to drive himself and meet me there. Being a single mom I felt so out of place as my son never introduced me to anyone. I left feeling hurt and alone. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I can understand why you feel alone and hurt. When children leave the nest, this is how many folks feel. Allow him to follow his own path. He is an adult now, yet has some social skills yet to learn. Somehow growing up, he never was taught about making proper introductions. You could take the initiative and introduce yourself to his girlfriend, although he should know better and should do so himself. This is no time to play the role of the victim. It is time however to step up to the plate and lead by example as to how to do the right thing. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Las Vegas trip funds

Should I feel obligated to help out my wife's out of work son to fund his Las Vegas trip? 

Dear Jay,
This is my second marriage, and my wife's fifth.  I have two young adult children; she has five.  Notwithstanding there is no obligation for me to spend money on her children, I've done so on occasion because my wife's not working due to a medical compensation claim.  The claim will be legally resolved shortly.

One of my wife's sons has a birthday coming up in April. He's unemployed and has been actively looking for work.  His lady-friend is planning a trip to Las Vegas for the two of them.  Is there an obligation to help the son financially?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, there is no obligation to help finance this trip. Sin City is the last place someone should be going who is out of work unless he is going there to look for work. Don’t be an enabler. Let them follow their own paths. I hope this helps.
Jay

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4th of July birthday party?

Can I throw a birthday party for someone on the 4th of July even if their actual birthday isn't that day? 

Dear Jay,
Is if okay to have my mother's 60th birthday party on July 4th? Her actual birthday is in the beginning of July, but not on a Saturday. The closest Saturday is July 4th.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Yes, of course. Have a wonderful celebration!
Jay

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No boyfriend, please

Are my husband and I wrong to not allow our college aged daughter to bring her boyfriend home with her while she is on break? 

Dear Jay,
Is it unreasonable of my husband and me to not allow our out of state college age daughter to bring her boyfriend home to stay with us on her break if we are uncomfortable with that?

We don't want to hurt her feelings, but we feel strongly about her not bringing him here.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your home is your castle. You and your husband decide what the house rules are - no one else. If you feel so strongly about this, my question would be why she asked you in the first place? Did she not know your thoughts around this sensitive subject? You will need to explain why this house rule is in place. I am not suggesting you need to have a debate on this rule, but you should explain your beliefs other than just providing the stock answer - because I said so. As to being unreasonable, your rule is neither reasonable nor unreasonable - it simple is a matter of fact, because it is your house. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Help! My Aunt Hits on my Husband!

Should my husband serve my aunt first even if she is totally disrespecting me by hitting on him? 

Dear Jay,
I had my Aunt at my house. I love her because she is blood, but unfortunately I cannot trust her to be alone with my husband. In a normal situation should my husband serve her first when it comes to food and drinks because she is our guest, or should he serve his wife first?

This is not a normal situation though, and I told my husband that I could not trust her not to hit on him, but still had her over because I trust him. Would these circumstances change who he should serve first? I got a bit jealous when he continued to serve her first and sometimes only served her leaving me to serve myself. I’m not sure what the usual etiquette would be here.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: From a strictly etiquette point of view, the guest is served first. You should however also be served before he sits back down. That however is rather minor compared to the far bigger and more serious issue here. Have you no respect for yourself? Has your husband no respect for you or for him? Obviously your aunt has no respect for either of you. If you really cannot trust her, you need to be sure your husband understands how this serious intrusion into your private lives makes you feel. He must clearly rebuff her advances and make sure she knows her behavior is unacceptable. You should also draw her aside and let her know that this must stop or she’s off the guest list permanently. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Asking guests to pay for a party

Is it okay to ask guests to pay $50 each to attend a 90th birthday party for my mom, so I don't need to foot the whole bill? 

Dear Jay,
My mother will be 90 years of age on June 25th.  My father is deceased, 2 yrs ago my mom lost a son and last year she lost her oldest daughter.  I have 1 sister and 4 brothers left, 3 of which are disabled and on limited income.  I want to give my mother a special birthday dinner and do not want to get stuck with the entire bill. The list would probably include 100 guests. Is it proper etiquette to ask/charge $50 per person? Please help me with some ideas.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, it is not OK to ask/charge anything for a party you are hosting. A celebration for this number could perhaps be arranged very inexpensively at a church hall with coffee and cake. It is the camaraderie that should be the focus. Finances do not allow for an extravagant dinner party. Most of the guests you invite would feel very uncomfortable, as would your mother. If you personally can foot the bill, that is another matter. Otherwise, a greatly scaled back event would be appropriate. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Lopsided Grandparenting

How do I deal with my reclusive daughter-in-law who doesn't seem to want me to visit? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter-in-law is very reclusive. This summer during harvest, a very busy time of year for her husband (my son), she took their 4 kids to visit her parents several states away. This was no surprise to us since she had done that the year before as well, staying 2 months with her parents.

This summer, she stayed past when school started, and they informed us that she was homeschooling. We had concerns and worries when our son went to visit them in September, and they did not come back with him. Finally, he went there over Thanksgiving, and they did come home with him. Only 'home' was not the country home where their farm is.  Our son informed us that she  wanted to live closer to town, so they have rented a house about 45 miles from where their farm is and my son commutes.

Since they have moved to town, I have seen my two older grandchildren once when they came to our place with their dad for a Christmas party, and then we did see our son and his entire family on Christmas day. They did not come for Christmas dinner, but came later in the afternoon for about 4 or 5 hours.  Keep in mind that we hadn't seen any of these grandkids while they were at their other grandparents for 5 months.

They recently had a new baby.  Our son called us to tell us, and he said that we could come to the hospital the next day to visit. Of course we wanted to see the baby, so the day the baby was one week old, one of my daughters who still lives at home and I went to their house on our way to do errands in town.  

We found their house and knocked on the door.  Our son was still out in the country working.  The first thing my daughter-in-law said to us was, “I didn't know you were coming."  I told her that we wouldn't stay long, but that we just wanted to see the baby and her, and give them some newborn baby presents.  We also wanted to see the older kids, and give them some Valentines.  We stayed about 10 minutes.

Now our son has called to tell me that if I want to come visit, I should call first to see if that is OK with his wife.  I asked how I was to contact them since they often do not answer their cell phones.  He said to call him on his cell and he would get ahold of her to ask.

The last time I was invited to their home was over 3 years ago for a 30th birthday party for my son.  I was asked to bring food for that party which I gladly did. I don't want to cause stress to my son, but he doesn't seem to realize how lopsided the grandparenting is. I am discouraged. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Let me first make a few observations. One, grandparents have no rights as far as when they can or cannot see their grandchildren. Two, you should always call before going to call on someone, family or not. It’s rude not to do so. Three, your daughter-in-law feels more comfortable with her parents than with you. Four, allow your son and his wife to set up their household with their rules. Everyone, including you, must honor their privacy. 
My feeling is that if you back off a little and stop scorekeeping, life may well improve. If you don’t, it won’t. That I will guarantee. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Left out

Am I wrong to feel left out when my family doesn't include me in their adult games and activities even though I am 19? 

Dear Jay,
I love my family, it just feels like they treat me like a teenager still even though I'm nineteen. For example when family comes over and everyone is chitchatting and playing board games of four, I feel left out because they don't care to incorporate me in games or talk to me. I try my best to mingle, yet it feels lonely why they get to have fun.  If guests ever came to my house in the future I would want everyone to play together.  Why does this feeling like they don't want to hang with me happen?  They are older and have more in common so can see, but why do they make me feel left out every time?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: How sad this makes you feel. I can hear it in your words. My advice is that you sit down with the person to whom you feel safest and explain how this behavior makes you feel. They will not know this unless you explain it to them. People generally don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. Perhaps they will make more of an effort to include you in future games, or at least give you a reason why you are not included. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Exhausted from family visits

How do I deal with my children and grandchildren visiting all the time when no one helps me and everyone expects me to do all the work? 

Dear Jay,
I am a widow and remarried 10 years ago.  We have a lovely blended family - my 3 kids, his 2 along with 3 grandchildren.  The children live in 4 different states and have to spend the night when they visit because of distance.  Holidays involve everyone staying in our home.  We are able to accommodate everyone, but they drag the visits on for days (5,6 and sometimes 7 and up). The whole time they visit, they expect to eat, and what is really upsetting me is they expect me to cook big meals and provide everything they eat for free. They do not help at all with cleaning up after dinner.  My husband helps, and it is often the two of us slaving away at a stove or sink, while our children are enjoying themselves visiting each other. My husband thinks I am terrible for complaining. He says children shouldn't have to pay to eat at their parent's house. But these "kids" are in their twenties and thirties. Though my husband is retired, I still work, and I would like to relax when I have time off. Every holiday I get, however, someone visits and I work so hard that I can't wait for the holiday to be over. 

It came to a head when the oldest visited with her 2 children and husband. Her husband's father was ill in a nearby city, so they came during the work week for a 3 day visit in order to deal with the sick dad-in-law. We were happy to help so they didn't have to get a hotel. I was working, and I came down with a cold. Even though our daughter never visited her dad-in-law, she had a grand time hanging out at our house with the grandkids.  When I dragged in from work, she was ready for me to fix dinner for everyone. I complained to my husband, and he just said that I cook too well and everyone loves it. How in the world do I fix this situation? I love seeing the kids, but I feel so trapped and enslaved.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with your husband that children should not have to pay for the food they eat at their parents’ house, unless of course circumstances dictate otherwise, which in this case they don’t. However, that does not mean you have to do all the work. In fact you shouldn’t necessarily have to do any of the work! But you will need a new system with a few ground rules. First of all, start and stop dates for visits is a reasonable request. At least then you know who is coming and going and when. Secondly, you need to assign tasks to everyone, so that everyone helps out. One way to accomplish this is to have a hat right at the front door. When they come in everyone takes a piece of paper from the hat. On the piece of paper is written a task. Make sure you have all these covered. People may need more than one draw from the hat as all the tasks need to be assigned. This can be arranged by family or by individuals, but you do not have to draw anything from the hat. You are already providing enough- and you are working! Be sure to let them all know ahead of time that there are new house rules and explain them - that way there are no surprises. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Wedding dilemmas from bride's real mom

What is the wedding etiquette for including a mom who lost legal custody when her daughter was 7 years old? 

Dear Jay,
Due to a drug addiction and brain injury from a car accident, I have raised my sister’s daughter as my own. I gained legal custody of her when she was 7 years old. She is now engaged to be married and her mother is somewhat back in her life. There is friction between them since my sister wants to be her mother again and be more involved. My husband is walking our daughter down the aisle and I already see problems arising regarding the wedding (since I am not the actual mother of the bride and so on). Family gatherings have become very uncomfortable for everyone.  My sister doesn't have the relationship I have with her daughter and tends to try and force it upon her.  At almost every gathering my sister is in tears regarding her daughter. What can I do to make this better?  What is the etiquette regarding her wedding day?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The etiquette suggests that this wedding day is all about the bride. Her wishes should be followed by all involved. This has nothing whatsoever to do with mothering. You and your sister need to back off and let your daughter/niece choose how she wants her day to unfold. On another note, there is serious need for family counseling here. I would consider contacting Family Services and getting some professional help to guide you through this transition. You may want to go by yourself initially. Anyone invited to counseling must agree to go; they cannot be forced. Have compassion for your sister and for yourself. Take the high road and put the needs of others ahead of yourself. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Super Bowl Party Shut Out

Am I out of line being angry at my sister for not inviting my daughter's boyfriend's parents to her home for a Super Bowl party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister had a Super Bowl Party, and when my daughter, 26, asked if her boyfriend’s parents could come, she basically said no, and that she wants to keep it small. We were shocked! His parents, in the past, have been at all the major holidays with our family. They have no other family, and really enjoy being with all of us. My sister doesn't really like them. She said they don't fit in. My daughter had to tell them that they were not invited. Awkward! As her mom, I had to help her decide how to handle this so we could all be together still. We ended up going to my sister’s, and his parents did something else.

Now there is this tension between all of us. I've tried telling my sister that I was annoyed with her decision to not invite them. It was just for a few hours, and they are like family. She only said, "I did nothing wrong. I can have who I want in my house." She sounds so immature. She is 50.
She then posted a remark on Facebook about it. That's when I got really mad, and we haven't spoken since.

I'm not sure what the next step will be, but I have no intensions to contact her further.
What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: On one hand, I agree with your sister. She can invite anyone she wants to her house. Your opinion does not matter because it’s her house. I recommend not offering it in these situations. Would you invite someone to your house you didn’t like? I wouldn’t. On the other hand, she has crossed a line when she went public with this. I advise you to ask her to remove the comment from FB. We all make mistakes and all bear responsibility for these errors in judgment. What is called for here is open communication and compassion. Do not hold a grudge. Have you heard of Byron Katie? I recommend you buy her book and read it, and share it. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Paying my sister's way

How do I tell my sister that I will not help her financially without hurting her feelings and without feeling guilty about it? 

Dear Jay,
I recently became a widow. My husband was a very good provider. Now, my sister is expecting me to bail her out of her money problems on a monthly basis because she thinks I have all this money. How can I resolve this problem diplomatically without feeling responsible or guilty?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are not responsible for your sister’s problems; therefore you should have no feelings of guilt. You can simply explain to her that you are on a tight budget, and that she needs to take care of her own financial obligations. You would be doing her a favor, so no guilt! I hope this helps.

Jay

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No thanks on all girls vacation

Am I wrong for not wanting to be on a vacation with just my sister and my mom? 

Dear Jay,
My mother invited me and my sister on a vacation.  I turned down the offer stating I would not be able to get off work during the time they were planning on going.  My mother said she understood but then mentioned we will have to schedule a trip for the three of us another time.  I am really not interested in ever taking a vacation with just the three of us.  I would consider a family vacation where my husband could join, but I don't want to do the 'girls' vacation.  My mother offers to pay, so I can not use the financial excuse.  Am I wrong for not wanting to go?  How can I politely state that I do not want to do these types of vacations?  I love my mother and sister, but do not want to vacation alone with them.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I have no idea why you do not want to spend time with just your mother and sister, but fully understand that reasons could definitely exist. So to answer your question about being wrong, I have no idea. What is your reason? Perhaps you have limited vacation time and you want to share that with your own family - fully understandable. I always say that honesty is the best policy. Let them know your reasons and take full responsibility for the decision, without blaming either one of them one bit. I hope this helps.

Jay

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90th birthday plans

Is it tacky for my mother-in-law to come up with her own 90th birthday party plans? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law will be 90 years old in two months.  Last night she took our 48 year old son aside and told him she wants to take the family out to dinner for her birthday.  He told me this today. My husband and I had planned on taking her and the family out to dinner already, but had not said anything to her about it yet.  It is still two months away. For all she knows we may have wanted to surprise her.  I think it's rather tacky of her to have her own "party".   I know she is afraid we might not do anything to celebrate and that would crush her, especially that she couldn't brag to her friends that we took her out.  I think she should graciously keep quiet and trust that her family cares enough to celebrate her 90 years.  I am rather pushed out of shape that she is sort of making sure that we don't forget. In fact it seems manipulative.  Is my thinking wrong on this?  What should I say to her when she tells me she wants to take us out for her birthday?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: My gut tells me that you are way off base here. You are making a lot of assumptions. And I think they may very well be untrue. I could list a whole lot of assumptions on the opposite side of the spectrum, which may be equally untrue. Assumptions are that way by definition. My advice is that you graciously accept her invitation. Have compassion for her and for yourself. At 90, it is not up to anyone to deny her any pleasure. My advice is always based on common sense and the Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

Jay

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In-law's visits hurting marriage

Am I being unreasonable when I want to end my in-law's 1-2 week visits every 2-3 months? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years and I have to deal with my in-laws coming to our house every 2-3 months to stay for 1 week to 2 weeks without them asking. It is causing a problem with me and my husband because he does not know why they can't come here whenever they like as he pays the bills. I am a private person, and I do not like houseguests because they make messes and are just generally in my space. How do I get this to stop? Am I being a difficult person by not wanting to accommodate his intruding parents?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your husband needs to grow up. Just because he pays the bills, that has nothing to do with how your household is run. You need to agree on guidelines for guests and other issues. If your husband does not agree to accept and understand your feelings you have a problem that may require professional counseling. You are not being unreasonable. I wish I could help you more. I hope this helps at least a little bit.

Jay

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In-laws visiting expectations

How should I deal with my in-laws never visiting us but always expecting us to bring our 5 month old son to visit them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband’s side of the family never comes to visit him or their 5 month grandson/nephew yet are very persistent about us visiting and taking my son over more often so that he can be more "familiar of them." When comments like that get thrown at me, I think, if you really cared you would make yourself familiar and visit him! We visit once a week. We live in Northridge, CA and they live in Camarillo, CA about a 40 min-1 hr drive. I occasionally invite them over, but obviously when they do come it's something totally out of their way yet they can drive to family gatherings/parties that are totally out of their way but not to our home. According to them it's easier for us to go. Obviously this drives me insane. 

I have mentioned it to my husband many times.He totally agrees with me and says he needs to have a talk with his mother and his sister. It hurts me so much because I know that if my parents, sister and brother lived at this distance away from me they would make time to come visit especially now that my 5 month old son is in the picture. They are absolutely crazy about him and it would be random spontaneous visits not so much planned and I would never need to beg them to come. How should this be handled?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your frustration. First of all, a rule of thumb I live by is to not take anything personally. That alone will relieve a lot of your anger. It’s their problem, not yours. If you don’t want to visit them, don’t. Secondly, your husband needs to have that talk sooner rather than later with his mother and sister. It’s wonderful to have such a supportive husband. He needs to explain what your visiting/traveling rules are. Do not allow his parents to bully you. Thirdly, have compassion for your in-laws, and for yourself. Humans are not built perfectly. We all have flaws and make mistakes - and that’s OK.  I hope this helps.

Jay

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Picking up the tab for guests

Are hosts of visiting relatives responsible for picking up all the restaurant tabs? 

Dear Jay,
When out of town relatives visit and stay in our home for a few days, are we responsible for picking up their portion of any restaurant tabs incurred during their visit?  We already provide them with meals in our home as well as free transportation.  My wife believes that we should pay for absolutely everything, something that the relatives don't do when we visit them.  I don't agree.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The option to pay or not is certainly not cut and dry. If your relatives cannot afford such luxuries as going out to restaurants and you invite them out, you are responsible. Maybe when you visit them, they cannot afford to pay for you. If this is not the case, then I would have to side with you. There is definitely no rule that suggests you must pay for absolutely everything. I suggest that applying some common sense and the Golden Rule may be appropriate. If however they cannot afford to pay, I suggest you consider being grateful that you can. Having compassion for them and for you is always helpful. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Grandparent naming

Who gets to choose how a grandparent is addressed by the grandchild - the grandparent or the parents to be? 

Dear Jay,
When it comes to grandparent names what is the proper etiquette in who gets to choose the name for the grandparent?

I am a step-mother and have a preference of what I would like to be called as a "grandparent" but the parents-to-be (step-son and wife) feel that it is their choice of what I will get called.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Common sense would dictate that the grandparent must at least agree to the name that will be used to address them. Surely some agreement can be arrived at without a big argument. If not, there will surely be bigger fish to fry down the road. As the senior, take the high road and try to be flexible. However, it is how you will be addressed, and you should have the final say. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Monster sister-in-law is driving me insane!

How do I handle my controlling sister-in-law when my husband allows her to display rude behavior in my home? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law asked us if she can stay with us while she comes to our city to host a Scentsy party.  I am so uncomfortable around her and this causes problems as my husband does not really seem to understand how it affects me and our relationship after being around her for more than an hour or so. We are usually around her and their family for 5-9 hours at a time (because they live 2.5 hours away), at his mom's, which is also difficult.  But having her in our home makes me so anxious.  Whenever she comes, she usually invites herself and even if we say it isn't a good time, she persists.  She goes through my cupboards and eats food without asking and is a slob.  

She is also very critical, always telling us what to do, especially my husband.  She makes comments about how I do my hair, and so on.  My husband caters to her every demand, and this is difficult to see, because I feel that she is disrespectful.  I'm the only one that cooks out of all of us, and I don't want to host.  She put her fork in the community butter dish and keeps her shoes on in our house when she KNOWS that we do not want this.  She just says, “My shoes are clean.”  Even when we had multiple house guests here at once and I had everything planned for where everyone was going to sleep (after she invited herself and I said we had no room-she persisted), she ended up changing the plan to suit where SHE wanted to sleep, and when I got upset, my husband just let her run the show.  HELP!  She also drinks a lot and the drunker she gets, the worse the behavior gets.  I just don't know how to deal with this anymore.  It is causing me so much anxiety, and I feel like an idiot.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are not an idiot for feeling the way you do. Your husband has his priorities completely backwards. Unfortunately, the time has come for to lay down the law. He will need to decide between you and his sister. Your home is your castle and you have every right to have your house rules honored. If your husband can’t stand up to her - and family dynamics often are so toxic that he simply may not have the skill set required to deal with this monster. You are well within your rights to have a private conversation with her and explain that if she doesn’t honor your household rules, she is not welcome in your house. I wish there were gentler way of handling this, but I’m afraid anything short of this will simply fall on deaf ears. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Loud partying drives me crazy

Should my parents speak up about my brother and sister-in-law's loud partying on special occasions? 

Dear Jay,
I live with my younger brother and parents at my parent’s house. My older brother and his wife also live with us, but they live on the highest floor. We all have our own floors. My older brother and his wife heavily party during special occasions - loud music and loud dancing. It’s so loud which makes it impossible to sleep, and it goes on until late night and early morning. I understand it’s rare - just on special occasions or holidays,but I feel they are extremely disrespectful, careless, and rude. They don't care that my parents nor I want to hear it and want to sleep. My parents treat my brother and his wife like they are a god and goddess. I know my sister-in-law wouldn't dare do this in her own parent’s house. Her strict mom wouldn't allow this. It feels unfair. Do you think my parents should stop this behavior by saying something or should I stay out of it?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Someone must be the head of the household. Presumably your parents play this role jointly - at least in an ideal world this would be how it works. I suggest a family meeting to discuss household rules. This should be headed by your parents, and any grievances must be voiced with respect and civility - no raised voices. You are in fact a small community living literally on top of one another. There must be a high level of mutual respect for everyone. If this does not work out, you need to consider setting up your own household elsewhere. I hope this helps.
My best,

Jay

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Tardy husband gets defensive

Is it unreasonable to expect my husband to communicate with me about when he will get home from special work functions? 

Dear Jay,
My husband asked a couple weeks ahead of time if he could stay late at work because they are reorganizing teams and his current team was doing a get together before they part. We have 6 boys that are young, as in 8 and under. I asked what time he thought he would be home on a number of occasions. He didn't know. The night comes around and I call about 5pm to ask what the plans are for the evening. He says dinner at 6:30 then they are going back to the office to play games. I say, “So you should be home by 10 or 11?” He says, “Yes.” Then when it was approaching 10, I called to see if he was on the way or what was going on. He tells me they're still playing and that he will leave in about 45 minutes, and this would have put him home at midnight or later. I got frustrated. When he got home I asked him if from now on when he goes out if he is going to be later than the estimated time could he call or text me and let me know and also to maybe get a better idea of time frame before the day of event.  He got defensive saying that he didn’t want to check his watch all the time and that I was being unreasonable. Is it unreasonable for me to want more communication about when he will be home especially when it is later than anticipated? I'm not saying he has a curfew, I would just like to be kept in the loop and have better time for planning with 6 kids.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I could not agree with you more. Of course he should let you know if he is going to be delayed. With six boys, the last thing you need is to worry about your husband’s safety. Timing however is everything sometimes. Nailing him when he walks in the door after a long day of work is understandably going to be met with resistance. Pick a time when you can have his undivided attention and clarify why this ground rule is important to you. If he understands how his actions make you feel, he should change his tune. Come at the discussion as a team player, and not some dictatorial victim. Remember more flies with honey than vinegar. He is very likely not behaving like this with the intention of annoying you. Have compassion for him and for you. I hope this helps.
P.S. NEVER argue in front of your boys, please!
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited and not admitted

How do I help my teenaged son understand that it isn't okay to go to party uninvited even if others do? 

Dear Jay,
My 16 year old son was invited by friends to go to a school mate's birthday party last night (Friday night, high school party). My three concerns were: are parents home, are you invited, and how are you getting home. I confirmed that the parents would be home. He texted the birthday boy and asked if it was okay to come. The response was "I'm not allowed to have any more people, sorry"... So my son wished him happy birthday and dropped it. The birthday boy sent my son a text a few minutes later and asked him to tell everyone that he wasn't letting them in, that he didn't want things to get out of control. So my son passed on the info which was promptly dismissed by all the kids, except my son.

Today I am dealing with a very resentful 16 year old because 20 other kids who a) were not invited and b) just showed up, were allowed in and had a great night. I stand by my insistence that you never show up uninvited. He is mad that I told him to ask. He says “It's high school, you just show up. I'm the only one who asked and I got told no. Everyone else just showed up and had fun".

Am I wrong to insist that it's in poor taste to show up uninvited? Is that common behavior and accepted now? The parents admitted all the kids who showed up uninvited.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are absolutely correct. This is precisely why kids growing up today stand little chance of being taken seriously in the real world when they need to function as adults. One, his parents are at fault - which happens far too frequently for not setting guidelines about who will be attending the party. Two, the birthday boy had no business texting your son with such a directive. There are times when party invitations are less structured, which is fine. However this situation is very hurtful for your son. I would be on the phone with the birthday boy’s mother and ask for some clarification. 16 year olds don’t always get the facts straight, and they obviously need guidance to avoid such problems from occurring in the first place. Since  the parents are clueless,  your job is to sit down with your son and explain to him the difference between right and wrong, and why. He is justifiably upset. Work as a team player, not as a dictator. But remember, you are right, and this is a great opportunity to turn a lousy situation into a teachable moment - with compassion. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Gift basket let down

Should I be hurt that my sister-in-law and my niece wouldn't open the gift basket I gave them with me present? 

Dear Jay,
This Christmas, for gifts, I made baskets, each included items I personally selected for the person who would receive it.  For instance, my niece got a $50 gift card to her favorite restaurant, and about $50 worth of other items in her basket.  This year, eight of our family members met at my house to exchange gifts.  We all opened them at once, ooohhhing, and ahhhhhing and thanking the gifter.  When we finished, I noticed that my sister-in-law and her daughter (my niece) had not opened their gift baskets.  I asked them to open them, and my sister-in-law said they decided to open them later at their house. I said, "This is my gift to you, and I really want you to open them now. That's why we are all here."  Again, she said, "No, we will open them later. I asked again, and she said, "We don't have time. We are getting ready to go to the restaurant."  I said, "We still have 20 minutes before we leave. Please open your gift." She refused. The next day, my sister-in-law said, "Sally got a cute bird in her basket, and I ran to mine to see if I got one too, but I didn't. I was so disappointed." That's the only comment that I received about their basket gifts.  Neither ever thanked me or even mentioned the baskets again. I feel very hurt by both of these women. I will never make them another basket. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I see two dynamics at play here. The first is your insistence on gifts being opened over and over again. I believe a gift is given with no strings, including when said gift is opened. On the other hand, your sister-in-law’s behavior is bizarre. So is her response after opening the gift. I wouldn’t make them another basket either. But I do think you may want to sit down with your brother and let him know how his wife’s behavior made you feel. It would be even better if you could sit down with your sister-in-law and share your feelings with her, but I don’t see that happening. The other option is to continue giving the baskets, knowing that they may not all be opened at the same time. It is Christmas, and the feeling of generosity is important. Be generous, but readjust your expectations. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Vacation party poppers

If our vacation hosts don't want to sight see or have fun, can we rent a car and do it on our own? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I were invited to visit his brother and wife in a vacation rental home they had rented for 1 month.  We were invited for 1 week.  We were asked to bring a list of things we wanted to see and do.  We were arriving by plane and did not rent a car.  After being there two days it became apparent that they did not want to sightsee or leave the house.  Would it have been appropriate to rent our own car and sightsee on our own?  Or would that have been considered rude as we were their guests and should do as they do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: It doesn’t sound like your hosts are taking an active role in your visit. By all means, strike out on your own, and invite them to join you. Maybe they’ll get the message. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Honesty is the best policy

Should I tell my aunt and uncle that my boyfriend stays with me sometimes while I am watching their home? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to bring my boyfriend to stay over?

I live in my aunt and uncle's house and I pay them for the room I'm using. They live in another country, so I rented a room so the house is not empty all year. I'm allowed to use everything in the house, I keep it clean, and I always pick up their mail which is a lot of huge boxes. My boyfriend lives 40 minutes away and sometimes he stays the whole weekend with me. Is that a bad thing? My aunt told me to pretend this is my house and not feel like a stranger. Obviously my uncle and aunt don't know that my boyfriend stays here sometimes, and I don’t know if what I’m doing is wrong. We're both young adults about to be engaged, so it’s not like I'm bringing just anyone. It is easier for me and my boyfriend to stay at my place because we don’t spend so much on gas and he lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a one room apartment, so its uncomfortable if the four of us stay in one place the entire weekend. Is this inappropriate?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: As long as you uphold your end of the bargain - keep the place clean and collect the mail - I see no reason at all for you not invite your boyfriend for weekends. It would be a good idea to let them know, however. Too many things can happen, and as a homeowner, knowing who is coming and going in and out of your house is reasonable and important. It sounds like your aunt and uncle are pretty flexible, but don’t push your luck. You’re doing nothing wrong, but honesty is the best policy. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Honesty is the best policy

Should I tell my aunt and uncle that my boyfriend stays with me sometimes while I am watching their home? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to bring my boyfriend to stay over?

I live in my aunt and uncle's house and I pay them for the room I'm using. They live in another country, so I rented a room so the house is not empty all year. I'm allowed to use everything in the house, I keep it clean, and I always pick up their mail which is a lot of huge boxes. My boyfriend lives 40 minutes away and sometimes he stays the whole weekend with me. Is that a bad thing? My aunt told me to pretend this is my house and not feel like a stranger. Obviously my uncle and aunt don't know that my boyfriend stays here sometimes, and I don’t know if what I’m doing is wrong. We're both young adults about to be engaged, so it’s not like I'm bringing just anyone. It is easier for me and my boyfriend to stay at my place because we don’t spend so much on gas and he lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a one room apartment, so its uncomfortable if the four of us stay in one place the entire weekend. Is this inappropriate?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: As long as you uphold your end of the bargain - keep the place clean and collect the mail - I see no reason at all for you not invite your boyfriend for weekends. It would be a good idea to let them know, however. Too many things can happen, and as a homeowner, knowing who is coming and going in and out of your house is reasonable and important. It sounds like your aunt and uncle are pretty flexible, but don’t push your luck. You’re doing nothing wrong, but honesty is the best policy. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited by insensitive brother-in-law

How should I react to my brother-in-law not inviting my children to his wife's 50th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,

My brother-in-law is throwing a 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law (she knows about the party and sent out the paperless invitation). Some nieces and nephews have been invited. It was said that only the married ones are invited and then I saw the guest list and there are nieces and nephews on the invite list that are not married and some other guests the same age as my two sons that are not family or married that are invited along with their boyfriend and/or girlfriend. I have two adult children that were not invited. Someone slipped and said that my brother-in-law is not inviting all of the nieces and nephews, because he doesn't want a lot of drinking going on, so that is obviously how he looks at my two adult children. My other brother-in-law’s children that are married have not been invited either. I am hurt by the remarks made by my brother-in-law. If you invite some you should invite everyone. They obviously picked and chose who they wanted to invite. I can assure you they could care less if they offend anyone. My brother-in-law is loaded and can afford to throw a big party. Money is not the issue. Another line was the place can only hold a certain amount of people. I looked the venue up and that is a total lie. They have forgotten where they came from.  I have decided to not attend the party but my husband is going.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  I fully understand your hurt feelings. And I understand why you are regretting the invitation. Family dynamics are often very fickle, and when this sort of nonsense is going on, I always think it’s best to detach. When it comes to invitation lists, the host has total control over who is or is not invited. The mistake this host made was in opening his big mouth and inserting both feet! His thoughtless remarks have damaged family relationships. What is needed here is compassion and forgiveness. Your brother-in-law may very well have had no intention of annoying anyone, although he clearly has. This incident is hardly worthy of bringing down a close family. Take the high road and do not take his actions personally. Don’t give him that power. I imagine by you not attending the party, he will be more sensitive next time, but there are never any guarantees. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited by insensitive brother-in-law

How should I react to my brother-in-law not inviting my children to his wife's 50th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,

My brother-in-law is throwing a 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law (she knows about the party and sent out the paperless invitation). Some nieces and nephews have been invited. It was said that only the married ones are invited and then I saw the guest list and there are nieces and nephews on the invite list that are not married and some other guests the same age as my two sons that are not family or married that are invited along with their boyfriend and/or girlfriend. I have two adult children that were not invited. Someone slipped and said that my brother-in-law is not inviting all of the nieces and nephews, because he doesn't want a lot of drinking going on, so that is obviously how he looks at my two adult children. My other brother-in-law’s children that are married have not been invited either. I am hurt by the remarks made by my brother-in-law. If you invite some you should invite everyone. They obviously picked and chose who they wanted to invite. I can assure you they could care less if they offend anyone. My brother-in-law is loaded and can afford to throw a big party. Money is not the issue. Another line was the place can only hold a certain amount of people. I looked the venue up and that is a total lie. They have forgotten where they came from.  I have decided to not attend the party but my husband is going.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  I fully understand your hurt feelings. And I understand why you are regretting the invitation. Family dynamics are often very fickle, and when this sort of nonsense is going on, I always think it’s best to detach. When it comes to invitation lists, the host has total control over who is or is not invited. The mistake this host made was in opening his big mouth and inserting both feet! His thoughtless remarks have damaged family relationships. What is needed here is compassion and forgiveness. Your brother-in-law may very well have had no intention of annoying anyone, although he clearly has. This incident is hardly worthy of bringing down a close family. Take the high road and do not take his actions personally. Don’t give him that power. I imagine by you not attending the party, he will be more sensitive next time, but there are never any guarantees. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Overly Sensitive About Lack of Dinner Invites

Should I be upset that my family members go out to dinner without even inviting me along when I often watch their children? 

Dear Jay,

I give-up substitute teaching to be a paid babysitter for my brother's children when his wife goes on military duty. Sometimes for a couple of days and sometimes for a month or more. Babysitting is less money, but I enjoy spending time with the kids.  

Sometimes, right after babysitting for the day, my brother and his kids go out to dinner with my sister and her husband.  I usually find out later because the kids will say something about it.  Once they went out on my birthday without inviting me.  They tried to hide it because I had been calling both to find out about my sick niece and if I needed to watch her the next day.  I told them it hurt my feelings that they didn't ask.  My sister reminded me they can go out to dinner without me if they want.  True, but it just seems if I am good enough to babysit my brother's children, I should be invited to dinner, especially if it is right after a day of babysitting.  I know they go out without my husband and me at other times and I can accept that.  Especially, since, I think my sister's husband and my brother have a special camaraderie over drinking and they are closer in age.  I am a decade older than my brother and sister.  My sister and her family also enjoy joining us for diving vacations or other outings. And we always see each other for holidays.  Wouldn't it be polite for them to ask me to dinner or am I being too sensitive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  It would be nice to be invited out to dinner, especially on your birthday. However, there will be times when you will not be included. Don’t let this get to you. They are not intending to hurt your feelings. Your sister raises a valid point. I think the fact that you have raised this issue will likely result in them being more sensitive in the future. Your feelings are certainly understandable and they are indeed valid. But only you have the ability to manage them. In the end, it would be polite to invite you to dinner, but realistically this is not going to happen every time; therefore, yes, you are being overly sensitive. Be grateful for the many blessings you have being a part of a loving family. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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We Feel Left Out During Gift Giving At Christmas

What should I do about my sister-in-law not liking me and not getting me or my children presents, even though I get them for both her and her kids?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I just got married this July. But, we have been together for seven years. He  has been the only father my children have ever known. His brother's wife (Shannon) hates me (she has never physically met me, but nonetheless, she hates me). Neither she nor my husband’s brother (Dan) get me or my children a Christmas gift, every year. I, on the other hand, always make sure to have at least one gift for each of them and their son always gets multiple gifts from Dave and me. I am wondering, what is the correct etiquette for such behavior? Should I continue to pretend like this doesn't bother me, or should I say something toward this "crazy childish" behavior? It is not so much about the "gift". My kids and I feel left out, when everyone else is opening presents around us, and we know that it is intentional that we get singled out. I can't help but feel angry, even though I feel I should not. I need help with this.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your sister-in-law is a monster. Her bullying tactics reveal a lot of insecurity on her part. Continue to take the high road, by doing the right thing. I would skip gifts for the adults next year and just give presents to their son. They may get the message; they may not. But at least the equation is better balanced. If no sign of gratitude comes, such as a thank you note, drop them all from your gift list and consider spending Christmas with people who are more in the spirit of what Christmas is all about. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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My Sister-in-law Always Needs to be The Center of Attention

How do I deal with my sister-in-law's need to be the center of attention all the time? 

Dear Jay,

My sister in law must be the CENTER of attention at all times. She inserts herself into pictures, takes selfies, etc and plasters them all over social media.  Funny thing is she never includes me in any picture - even if I ask. There is a lot more to this story, such as my single brother being head over heels in love with her, and that she acts as if she speaks for my entire family. If you don’t go along with her, you don’t get to see her kids, or she won’t invite you to go out with other members of MY family. She is so arrogant and self important that I’d like to just cut ties, but both my brothers love her, and I won’t get to see nieces and nephews. I don’t know what to do.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a dilemma. It sounds like you and she may be dealing with some insecurities here. I recommend that you have a chat with your brother (her husband), and explain how her behavior makes you feel. He is the one who needs to intervene here. You have limited choices. Don’t take her behavior personally - people who need to be the center of attention are all about them, not anyone else. I wonder what it is that endears her to the men, though. Have the chat with your husband and see how that goes. Feel free to get back to me then. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Mother-in-law's Unequal Money Distribution at Christmas

Should I be upset that my mother-in-law always gives the spouses less money than her own children? 

Dear Jay,

Every Christmas for about the last 4 years my mother in law has given an envelope with cash to each of her grown children and one to their spouses. She gives a substantial amount to her kids and a much smaller amount to the spouses.  Every year I dread the envelope giving as I am the spouse and for some reason my feelings are hurt over this.  Am I being overly sensitive or is this a normal practice? I have told my own grown children that when they get married this will never happen as I will give equal amounts to them and their spouses or one envelope will be given to them as a couple, so no one feels less a part of the family.  I lose my joy for Christmas due to this gesture every year.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This form of gift giving reveals a deep need to have some control over the family structure. Your mother in-law is saying that her own children are more important than their spouses, and allegiance will always remain there. This is not healthy, but it is in her family ‘normal’. And, yes, perhaps you are being overly sensitive. It’s a gift - even a predictable one. If this hurts your feelings, I suggest you explain this to your spouse; have him speak with his siblings and see how their spouses feel; and consider asking his mother to give money to couples and not individually. This will be met with resistance, and taking the high road may be your best option. By that, I mean letting go of your attachment to the amount of money. That too is unhealthy. My best advice is to be grateful that you are getting any gift and that you have any family with which to celebrate holidays. Many people have neither. I hope this helps.  

 My best,

Jay

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Rude Niece Isn't Nice

How do I handle my niece when she comes to my house and asks for food and always seems to take more than she should? 

Dear Jay,

How do I handle a 15 year old niece when she comes over for a brief visit with her mother? My niece will ask for things, such as snacks, chips, water or soda. When I give her a side of chips, she will ask if she can take the whole BIG bag, or she will help herself to 2 or 3 bottles of water to take home with her. I know my niece is not a hungry child; I believe it’s just a bad habit, and I don't know how to approach the subject without hurting her mom’s feelings. I'm not a greedy person, I just don't believe someone should come into my home and open my pantry, or ask for things.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:You have two choices as I see it. One is that you can embrace the churlishness of this precocious young lady. Trust me, this will not go on forever. She will grow up one day. However, if this is intolerable for you, you must speak with her mother privately and share with her how her daughter’s behavior makes you feel - disrespected, used, etc. Her mother may be completely unaware of this. People generally do not want to irritate other people, and I would hope that she would have a chat with her daughter about how to behave when in another person’s house - family or otherwise. Gratitude is an important principle for everyone to learn. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Leftover let down

How do I tell my sister in law that she doesn't get leftovers even when she brings a container to fill after the meal is finished? 

Dear Jay,

My husband and I end up being the default hosts for his side of the family during holidays. We pay for the food, cook, clean, and host for approximately 10 people. His sister comes to our home (she will usually bring a small dessert) with tupperware for leftovers! I am appalled by this! It is the host's choice if leftovers are given out, and it angers me that she is so presumptuous! How can I delicately address this issue and let her know it's not ok to assume she (and anyone else) will receive a care package? My husband doesn't see this as a big deal.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your husband may see this as OK, but if you don’t, you may want to have a chat with him to express your concerns. It is important for spouses to agree on matters where one of you is bothered. There is no reason to be delicate about letting your sister-in-law know that you will be using the leftovers for your own purposes. It sounds like she feels entitled to your leftovers. Simply let her know when she goes to scoop up everything that this year nothing is up for grabs. Do be sure to give her back any leftover dessert or a clean dessert container if it all is not consumed. Since this does not seem to be matter to your husband, perhaps it won’t bother her much either. My sense is that this is of greater concern to you than it is to her. If she makes a scene, take the high road and let her have her way. 

Life is too short to fight over leftovers. Another alternative, which I have used, is to divide the leftovers evenly between all guests and hand them all “doggy bags”; but you do the loading. If there will be no doggie bags for anyone, you can always announce as the table is cleared that there are no doggie bags this year. It seems a bit petty though, so you may want to consider no cooking more than you will need. I often put all leftovers in the soup pot, so you could do that before she has a chance to dive in. I hope this helps. Have a joyous holiday.
 
My best,

Jay

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Disrespectful houseguest

How do I approach our ungrateful houseguest about his behaviors? 

Dear Jay,

I am a young mother going to school with not much money.  I have a daughter who is eight years old. Her father and I had her young, but we have stayed together as a family through it all.  Despite the facts that we are not really prepared to take anyone in, we have agreed to allow my younger teen cousin to live with us until his mother gets her act together.  He  does things like stay on the internet until about 2 in the morning. I’m hesitant to say anything about it because my husband does the same thing.  

When we cook, we cook for everyone including him, and the same goes for ordering out. He also does not hesitate to eat up any quick snacks or sandwiches in between meals.  Sometimes I cook late when I have a lot of work, and he'll go and buy food and eat in front of my 8 year old daughter, not offering her anything. He just recently got a job because my husband knew the manager, and he is talking about quitting which is one my stipulations for living with me.  I only ask him to take out the trash and occasionally dishes which he complains about. I do his laundry for free, and neither he nor his mother pay me anything for him being here.  His grandma (my aunt) says she didn't want to take him in. What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You need to have house rules for this young man. He is a guest in your home. Your home is your castle and you make the rules (with your husband). The deal is that he (or anyone else) abides by the house rules, or they must leave. There is a sense of entitlement young people have, especially when their parents have failed to teach them otherwise. Unfortunately, you must act as a parent in this situation and show him kindness and give him encouragement. However, he must do the same and respect you. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Visiting decisions for the holidays

How do we determine which family to visit without feeling guilty or making people feel bad? 

Dear Jay,

There's just too many houses too far apart to visit everyone in my family for the holidays. Now that we are expecting I can only imagine the pressure will be greater to see everyone. We want to, its just not feasible. We run several different businesses, two of which are seasonal so that in itself makes traveling far difficult because we have to make a living. How do you determine who/where/how to spend the holidays? We want to have traditions we want to see all the family we want baby to know grandma and nanny, but it's going to be hard. How do you make the right decision and then make everyone ok with it AND not feel guilty?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a dilemma many people face. You must do what is best for you and your own family (not parents, grandparents, etc.). I doubt your intention is to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is important. People will, or should be sympathetic to your situation. I would divide holiday visits up on a yearly basis. One year you spend Thanksgiving with one group and Christmas with another, and revolve these visits to suit your schedule. The well being and safety of your family comes first - always! There is no reason to feel guilty about doing the right thing. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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My aunt and uncle have abused their visiting rights

How do I tell my aunt that enough is enough with them abusing our hospitality without alienating her? 

Dear Jay,

My aunt and uncle live about 5 hours away.  For years my aunt and uncle have been coming up to visit and stay at our house.  At first it was to visit my family, and they would come once or twice a year.  When their son enrolled in college in our town (about 8 years ago), they started coming more often so they could visit him.  When their 2nd son enrolled at the same school, they came even more frequently, and it started to become obvious that our house had become a free hotel rather than a family gathering spot.  They would make plans without inviting me and my family, and even got to the point where my cousin would lie to us about where they'd been (he said studying, they confessed that they had gone to dinner and not invited us).  Two years ago my oldest cousin and his girlfriend were having a baby.  My aunt asked about staying with us around the time of the due date, and we told her anytime was fine EXCEPT for a specific week that included a specific weekend.  As you can imagine, the baby came at the beginning of that week and my aunt and uncle called from the highway asking again about staying with us.  I reminded her that the week wasn't good for us, and she asked who was staying there instead of them.  I told her nobody was staying at our house, and she asked again if they could.  I caved.  I was upset with myself, but didn't know what else to do.

24 hours later, my aunt informed me that my uncle's sister was on her way to see the baby, and that they had told her she could stay with us, too.  I was speechless. I ended up making up a bed for my uncle's sister as well.

On other occasions when she's stayed here, my aunt has invited her friends over to our house without asking (people I do not know and have never met).  This has continued to get worse and worse over the years.

Now the baby is 2 years old and my aunt and uncle come up at least once a month.  Our discomfort has shown through enough that they don't always ask us to stay at our house, but still do at least every other month.  The other times, they stay with their son in his small house.  When they do stay with us, my aunt spends most of her time with her grand-daughter, which means we see her mostly in the evenings. Unless, of course, she invites her son and his family to our house (never asks us, always just invites).

A couple of days ago my aunt asked "what are you doing between Christmas and New Years?", which is normally how she probes about staying with us.  She said they were coming up on December 26th and wanted to stay through New Year's, and that their son's house was "pretty cramped with the Christmas tree up and all that."  My wife told her she'd have to check with me and find out if we had other guests/plans.

I don't know what to do at this point.  I am sure that my aunt already thinks I'm mean/selfish for not having them at our house every time they visit.  The only time she doesn't basically assume she can stay here is if I say that we already have house guests.  Sometimes, even if we DO already have house guests, she will ask when they're leaving and adjust her travel to show up the day after they leave.

I've had enough.  I do not want to alienate my family, but I am tired of how inconsiderate my relatives have become over the years.  I've worked up the courage twice to say "this is not a good time for us" and both times my aunt and uncle have kept pushing until we agreed they could stay here.  I love my aunt and uncle, but it is causing my wife and I so much angst and frustration that I feel like I have to tell my aunt she has abused our family ties.  My fear is it will drive a wedge between us, and she'll no doubt share her opinions with my other aunts and uncles about what a jerk I am.

What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are not a jerk! You have every right to have the feelings that you have. In short, you are being bullied - horribly! You must face the music and confront your aunt and uncle. They must respect your privacy, without any interrogation. Unfortunately you have ‘caved’ more than one time, allowing the bullying to continue. Do not be concerned with how the rest of your family will feel. Frankly, it doesn’t matter; and I imagine they may have similar feelings. Bullies bully in all areas of their life. Your responsibility is to you and your wife. You do not need this element in your life. Do not allow it. You can deliver this information without judgment, just as you have in your question to me. I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any more questions around this important issue.
 
My best,

Jay

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Unenjoyable family visits

How can I convince my boyfriend that even though it's not very pleasant that we should stay with my family for at least two nights to be polite? 

Dear Jay,

What is the etiquette for a serious but not engaged couple when visiting each others' families? I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend's family in short, enjoyable doses, since they live nearby. We see my parents a few times a year and must travel 3 hours to see them...resulting in longer, very not-enjoyable visits. I won't deny that visiting my family is not fun for reasons beyond my control, mostly to do with the personalities of my family members. I sympathize with my boyfriend's dislike of our visits and emphasize how much I appreciate his presence. However, I feel a duty to continue to visit a few times a year, and when I do visit I am very concerned about staying long enough so as not to be rude to my parents. That translates roughly to a two-night stay. We average two visits a year, outside of family emergencies. 

Starting with this Thanksgiving, my boyfriend has put up a lot of resistance to staying a second night. How should I handle this situation? Unfortunately the discussion is not going well. Despite there being solid reasons for staying the second night, mostly for additional family time and to avoid driving home in the dark, he is adamant that staying a second night is illogical. He is going so far as to claim he does not like "staying nights" at other places, which very much contradicts with his actions on other trips.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Thanks for asking this delicate, and not at all uncommon, question. Without going into a long discussion, I would advise that you consider leaving your boyfriend behind when you visit your parents unless you can keep your visits shorter. You have no duty to visit anyone, not even your parents. However, if you feel you need to visit them, go ahead, but don’t feel your boyfriend needs to join you. If your parents want to know why he isn’t along for the trip, be honest and let them know how these visits make you both feel. Some situations are irreparable, and the sooner an honest eye is put on things, they may be able to change. However, if there comes a time when you must visit your parents due to some extenuating circumstance and require your boyfriend’s support, then he should accommodate your needs and join you. I hope this helps. Have a very Merry Christmas!.
 
My best,

Jay

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Excluding the girlfriend at a special dinner

Is it okay if I don't invite my son's new girlfriend to his graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,

I am attending my son's college graduation with my niece.  The night prior to graduation, there will be a gathering of students from his degree area, with refreshments and socializing. I would like to take my son and niece out to a nice restaurant afterwards.  However, my son has a new girlfriend of about 4 months, and he is "in love".  I cannot afford to take his girlfriend and actually prefer to just take my son and my niece to dinner.  How do I discuss this with my son.  Or is it inappropriate to expect him to go without her.  This would be a celebration dinner for his graduation the next day.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There are two things in life that can cause real problems - time and money. Try to avoid situations where these are limiting factors. In this case, my advice is to consider going to a restaurant you can afford, which would allow you to include your son’s girlfriend. How would you feel in his position if you were asked such a question? It’s very awkward and could deflate the celebration. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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I want my meat!

Should I get the most leftovers since I bring the most food for the holiday gathering? 

Dear Jay,

My mother hosts Christmas Dinner every year since I live more than 700 miles away from my whole family, and it is not feasible for the entire family to drive to my house.  We stay in our trailer when we are down visiting my family.  Every year I help my mother with the cooking, cleaning, prepping and buying the meal.  For the past four years I have always brought the Prime Rib Roast, a side dish, the fresh baked sourdough and french bread, wine and a couple of pies.  Neither of my brothers or sister contribute any food or help with the cooking and cleanup.  

My mother always asks that I bring a large roast so that she has leftovers for the following day, which I always do.  Last year, I brought a very large roast and when it came time for us to leave my mother told me to take some leftovers. I was very happy about this because we had a long drive home, and I knew it would be several days before I could get to the market.  I started to pack some of the meat and she came into the kitchen and told me that she had already packed meat for me.  She gave me a tiny baggie of about 4 slices of Roast Beef.  I told her that I would like to take more home for my son (who was unable to make it for Christmas) and she told me she needed it for her and my Dad.  Certainly that wasn't enough meat for more than 1 meal on the road.  

Last week she asked that I bring the roast again this year.  I told her I would but that I would be taking some extra meat home.  She complained that I should buy a larger roast if I plan on doing that.  I reminded her that she was also serving a ham and that if people want leftovers for several days they can eat the ham.  I know that the host is not obliged to give out leftovers.  However, I feel that when one of the guests brings most of the food, shouldn't they be offered a reasonable amount of leftovers?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I’m not feeling much Christmas spirit in this question. This time of year is about giving, not hoarding. Here is my advice. Take a roast that feeds exactly enough for the meal. There will be no leftovers to squabble over. Figure out your road trip meals separately. Everyone should be given the same amount of leftovers, if leftovers are shared at all. I hope this helps. Have a very Merry Christmas and remember to be grateful for your many blessings.
 
My best,

Jay

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Wicked bride to be

How do I approach my soon to be daughter-in-law about her excluding all of my son's family from their wedding and holidays? 

Dear Jay,

I'm stunned that my son's fiancee has told me that I may not bring anyone -even another family member to accompany me to their wedding which will be held in another state. This leaves only one person from my son's family attending: me, his mother. 

Her family numbers about 25 or so. Relatives and friends say this restriction is really weird - especially considering she has never met any family members. I cannot help being offended; I'm a business professional and never had any sort of cross word or behavior issues with this woman or anyone else for that matter to prompt this sort of exclusion. Friends and family are confused and offended as well. She has also recently dismissed her friend as maid of honor and told my son that he no longer needs his best man to attend(!?).

My son seemed surprised at her suggestion,but seems to go along with her. While I'm concerned at this odd treatment and relatives press me to persuade my son that this is disrespectful to me, somehow I don't believe anything I do or say would not be construed as meddling however stymied we all are about her strange behavior.  I have never had a cross word with her and bite my tongue even when she vents. What is the best way to handle this? 

Thanksgiving was the same scenario; come by myself or don't come at all - that even excluded my own brother who was in town for the holiday! Do you have any constructive advice as to how to best handle this?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your son is about to marry a bully. Unfortunately for him, he is going to be spending a lot of his time defending this monster. You have three choices as I see it. One, accept her unconditionally because she is your son’s choice for his wife. Two, have a private chat with your son and explain to him how this behavior makes you feel. This has nothing to do with meddling; this is a personal affront against your family. Your son is the “man for the job” in this case. Three, take off the gloves and confront her as the spoiled inconsiderate child she appears to be. Explain to her how her actions make you feel, and that in your family this is unacceptable. You may even go so far as to say you won’t be going to the wedding under these conditions. Your son and his fiancee will need to join forces on this decision and come to an agreement. If they don’t this marriage is doomed, and frankly you are better off not being a part of it. Perhaps your son is unaware of most of the emotional dynamics at play here. When he is informed, he may get to the bottom of this and take his rightful role. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Cash gifts for all?

Does my son's significant other get the same cash gift as my children and their spouses? 

Dear Jay,

All of my grown children will be at my house for Christmas.  My husband and I have decided to give them all equal cash gifts.  However, my oldest son is bringing his significant other They are not engaged yet, but plan to be when they get out of the military in one year.  I want to include her in the cash gift, but am unsure what amount or percentage is appropriate.  It seems inappropriate to give the same amount as my children and their spouses.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: My advice is to treat her as an equal and give her the same amount as everyone. Such a gift makes a strong statement of "welcome to the family”. You could give money only to your children, and perhaps a different sort of gift - maybe even a gift certificate, but of equal amounts. I hope this helps. Merry Christmas!
 
My best,

Jay

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Video Game Overload

How do I handle the fact that my brother-in-law plays video games the whole time we visit? 

Dear Jay,

Each time we visit my sister and her family her husband is playing video games the majority of the time we are there. Would you consider this rude and how do I approach it to someone that's very defensive in nature?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There is nothing for you to do. It’s their house, and therefore if your brother-in-law wants to behave like a buffoon, so be it. It would be very inappropriate to bring this up when you are there. You could perhaps have a private chat with your sister, on neutral territory - maybe at the shopping mall - and let her know how his behavior makes you feel,  without judgment or emotion. If she goes on the defensive, you will know for sure that this bad behavior is likely to remain. If she agrees with you, perhaps she’ll have a chat with him, and then there may be a chance he may make more of an effort in the future. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Messy situation with in-laws and family invitations

How do I resolve my in-laws not wanting my brother, his partner and their child to join us to celebrate Christmas? 

Dear Jay,

We attend my husband’s family Christmas every second year.  My parents are also invited to attend. This year my brother and his partner and baby son do not have anywhere to go for Christmas day. My husband and I have subtly asked if they could come to Christmas; however, the answer was no.

I don't want to tell my parents as they may be offended, but my brother believes he is invited. It's all very messy. I really want to avoid awkwardness and issues between the families. What do I do? Is it reasonable for my in-laws to say no to my brother?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your husband needs to approach his parents and have a proper chat with them if this is going to change. They may have a perfectly good reason for limiting the guest list; however, turning away your family is indeed awkward, and a clearer understanding of the reason is understandable and appropriate. Remember that his parents are hosting this party and there is no responsibility on your part to keep the peace. Perhaps your in-laws are not fully aware of the dynamics. Christmas is a time for sharing. I hope they come around. If not, in the future make your plans accordingly, perhaps even hosting the dinner yourselves, and building your own guest list and starting your own family tradition. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Disrespectful family visits

How do get my husband to help his grown children and grown grandchildren to show some respect in our home? 

Dear Jay,

How do I get my husband to get his grown children that have children make their kids mind and be respectful of others’ property when they visit?  We paid over 10K for our new oak floors and leather theater seating yet they climb over the back of the furniture and jump into it instead of sitting correctly.  Also, they destroy the kitchen after we go to bed and the parents do nothing.  I am getting to the point I do not care if they ever come back.  As soon as they come through the door they scrap all parental responsibility and then get pissed if anything is said to the kids.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Unfortunately your husband and the mother of his children forgot to teach them proper manners as children. It’s never too late, however. But this would be a job for him to do, definitely not you. You and your husband need to have a chat, and you need to make it clear that his children and their children need to change their ways, or he will have to lower the boom. It is important for your husband to explain that in your home, there are rules. Until they agree to follow them, they will not be welcome. This will be met with great resistance, but this is an issue that is decades old and will not go away with a simple nudge. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Rowdy family visits driving my wife nuts

How do I handle wanting my crazy family to visit during the holidays even if my wife doesn't want them to come? 

Dear Jay,

My wife does not like to have guests at our home. With the holidays, my large family wants to visit and they have little kids who run around, yelling and screaming. I like having guests so we argue about it, but I'm willing to limit the number of visits. I am not sure how to communicate this with my family members - adult nieces, nephews and their kids, my out-of-town sisters and their kids. It drives my wife nuts.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Honesty is the best policy. First you need to come sort of agreement with your wife. You must speak with a unified voice. In most of these cases a compromise can be reached. Bear in mind that comprises, by their very nature, leave both parties making some concessions. Looking on the bright side, being grateful that you even have family to visit might be a helpful tack for your wife to take. Once you reach whatever agreement you do reach, you can then simply explain to your family what the situation is. Your home is your castle and you are well within your rights to have house rules. It may be a bit awkward at first, but people will come to respect your ways, just as you would respect theirs at their house. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Not allowed to call during the holidays

How do I approach my sister and her husband about their ban on calls from the extended family during the holidays? 

Dear Jay,

How should I respond to the email I got from what was made to appear as being from my sister, but was obviously not written by her, asking that my sister and our families not call on the holidays because that is their family time (my sister, her husband and their adult children and families)?  I should preface this with this is the first holiday season following our mother's passing.  I feel certain that this would never have occurred while either of our parents were alive, but now that the inheritance has been paid out and there is no risk of alienating the family and risking the loss of any inheritance my sister’s husband is pushing her family away.  My sister's husband has always been somewhat controlling, but I actually never thought that he would go this far.  

I do feel strongly that if forced to choose, my sister will choose her husband, and I am not ready to also mourn the loss of my sister. How do we go forward?  Do we ignore this request or point blank ask my sister what she wants us to do?  It has always been our families practice to call and
talk to our family members on the holidays if we could not be there in person.


Jay's ANSWER...

A:  As there are several assumptions you are banking on here, my advice is to speak with your sister privately. I would suggest you do not sugar coat this, but be polite. Reiterate your desire for the family unit to remain as intact as possible. Do not accuse your brother-in-law of any wrongdoing. Your sister and he will need to discuss this matter themselves. Their decision is one with which you must live. Keep in mind that if this does not end well from your point of view, it can be viewed as temporary. Remain in contact with your sister and her children as you normally would. This is known as taking the high road. No need to duplicate their insensitivity. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Put some clothes on!

How do I approach my guest who dresses inappropriately to show off her overly curvaceous body? 

Dear Jay,

I have a single friend visiting for the holidays. She is very  curvy and wears clothes that are 2 sizes too small. She is very comfortable walking around my house with a tank top and booty shorts. How do I ask her to put some clothes on? I am married and have a hormonal 16 year old son. I don't want her to  visit if she is going to disrespect my family. What do I do?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you feel her attire is disrespectful, by all means let her know (privately). You’re not likely to get much support from the men in the family, as they are wired differently. Hopefully you have taught your son by now that people who dress inappropriately are either hopelessly insecure, lazy, or worse. Your husband should already know this. Your best bet may be to wait until the situation presents itself. At that very moment have a chat with your guest. Who knows, maybe she’ll surprise you and have turned over a new leaf of self-respect. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Rude sister-in-law blues

How do I deal with my rude sister-in-law during the Thanksgiving holiday? 

Dear Jay,

How do I deal with my rude sister-in-law? She came to my 20th wedding party celebration, but did not greet me or my husband (she is the wife of my husband’s brother). I had a disagreement with my sister-in-law over how she treated my 83 year old mother-in-law last Christmas as well. After that incident, we didn’t talk for 8 months. 

After my wedding party, I expressed my disappointment about her rudeness to her via text, but she never responded. Now the holidays are approaching and for the sake of family and mostly for my mother-in-law who I care for very much, we are going to meet at a restaurant for Thanksgiving and at my mother- in-law’s home for Christmas., I now, live with my Mother-in-law, so it is practically my home. I feel stressed out just thinking my sister-in-law will be around! How do I handle this?


Jay's ANSWER...

A:As the expression goes, “We can pick our friends, but we can’t pick our family”. A shift in your focus may be helpful here. Thanksgiving celebrations are all about being grateful for the bounty the earth has provided, and for being thankful for our family and friends. You and your sister-in-law are not going to resolve your issues easily, if at all. My advice is that you be civil to her, and interact as little as possible with her. If you focus on your mother-in-law and those in the family for whom you are thankful, your irritation will likely diminish. As a word of advice, in the future if you are planning to make a personal comment about someone’s behavior, do so in private and in person. Hiding behind an email or text is inappropriate and elicits (as you can see) no response. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Giving up rooms for guests

What should I do about sleeping arrangements when my sister and her family stay with me for Thanksgiving? 

Dear Jay,

I'm a single dad hosting family for Thanksgiving. I have 3 bedrooms, one for each of my kids: full size beds in both of their rooms, and a king in mine. Here's the question, my sister and her husband will be staying three nights. Do I give up my room or put them in a full bed in one of the other rooms? Their adult son is also staying and will be in one of the other rooms. I plan to have my kids on air beds or couches. Should I take one of my kids’ rooms?


Jay's ANSWER...

A:You are very generous to invite your sister and her husband and son to stay with you. This could unfold in any number of ways; however, your home is your castle. As accommodating as you want to be, it should not be solely at the inconvenience of you and your family. Depending on the age of the kids, I would try this out. Ask one of your sons to relinquish his room for your sister and her husband. The two youngest of the four might actually enjoy sleeping on a couch or air mattress. This should not create stress, and should not be perceived as an inconvenience. Keep it light, and consider sleeping arrangements before blindly inviting people to stay for 3 nights in the future. There is certainly nothing wrong with guests taking the couches either. I have known hosts to give up their bedroom for guests, but it’s awkward for guests and host, and unnecessarily disruptive. Bottom line - no ‘shoulds’. Perhaps deciding as a group will diffuse any worry around this. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Mother-in-law Christmas Nightmare

How do I deal with my mother-in-law through Christmas and especially let her know that she can't stay with us? 

Dear Jay,

My daughter is a ballerina. Every year, my parents have come to see her in the Nutcracker and if they can, they try to come to her other performances. When my daughter first asked about ballet, my MIL was visiting and said to tell her no, that she was too old. When I told her that she was in Company, she laughed and said what does that mean, she will travel around the world now? I chalked it up to ignorance. So in the years that my daughter has performed, my MIL has come to 2 performances. 

There is a long history with my MIL; I find her intrusive, rude, brash, and self absorbed.  This year, my parents will make the trek again to see my daughter in her performance.  My husband was talking to his mother, and she told us she would be coming to see her as well. Also, my 2 FIL's will be coming also (#1: My MIL’s first husband and my husband’s father; # 2: My MIL’s 4th husband). MY husband told his mom that our guest room was not available since my parents had already RSVP'd. We also told his father that it was not available.  The performance is now a month away, and she has yet to tell us how long she will be staying and where. 

From past experiences, my fear is that she will show up and think that she is going to stay with us while expecting me to wait on her hand and foot. My other fear is that she will want to stay thru Christmas. My parents have said they would love to join us for Christmas, and my kids love having them here. When I mentioned that my MIL might stay (since we haven't heard) my kids said, “No we want Grandma and Grandpa” (My parents). My parents have said they will not stay for Christmas if my MIL does (She has not been a part of our Christmas celebrations in 16 years). What do I do when she sends her emailed itinerary at the last minute with her lengthy stay and what if it's thru Christmas? What do I do if both in-laws (her and her ex) show up and think that we are hosting everyone in our house?


Jay's ANSWER...

A:My advice is to head them off at the pass. By this I mean you need to communicate to all parties involved exactly what your house rules are. One of them is knowing when guests are coming and going. You and your husband need to speak with your respective sets of parents and make this abundantly clear. Remember that your home is your castle, not your in-laws’. There may be some resistance on their part to heed your directives, but that’s just too bad. By clearly communicating what your house rules and boundaries are, all of this will resolve nicely.  Try to stick to the facts and not the emotional components. Frankly, your in-laws' opinions on these matters should be of no consequence. It’s your house. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Visitor overload

How do I get my husband to understand that the constant stream of visitors and long term guests in our house is not okay with me? 

Dear Jay,

I've been married to my husband for 10 years and since we got married, we've had more than 30 people come and live with us for a period of time ranging from 8 months to 2 years. These are people he brings because of one reason or the other. He also holds a series of meetings in our house and a lot of people attend. These are not part of the regular family members that come on vacation from time to time and spend from 2 weeks and above. 

I am a very private person and like my space, but I am forced to cook for all these people three times daily for as long as they stay which most times is up to a year. Most importantly is that my husband does not contribute much to the family upkeep like grocery bills and water or detergents. When I complain he says I am wicked that I cannot accommodate people. 

We have four kids of our own and sometimes these people inconvenience my kids as per what TV channel to watch or where to sleep, and if I tell them to help with housework they feel they are being bossed around. At times I have up to five adults in my home excluding me and my husband and our kids. I am tired and don't know how to make my husband understand or take responsibility for his visitors upkeep and welfare. My privacy is out of the question.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You have worked your way into a very difficult spot. Somewhere along the line, you forgot to say WHOA! Moving forward, you and your husband will need to have a private discussion and establish some ground rules you can live with. You may well need to seek professional counseling about this, as this is not a simple situation to put right. Family Services provides excellent services. Remember that you make the choices everyday that perpetuate this scenario. It’s time to start making different choices, and to regain some self-respect. Your privacy should never, ever be out of the question. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Toxic Sister at Thanksgiving

How do I handle my toxic sister at my aunt's house for Thanksgiving? Should I even go? 

Dear Jay,

My relationships with my biological family has been nothing short of dysfunctional since childhood, and I have been forced to cut a lot of them out of my life entirely for my own personal safety as well as the safety of my kids, husband and in-laws or because the relationships have been toxic.  A few months ago, one of my sisters crossed the line, and my husband and I decided she is too toxic of a person and had to be cut out of our lives. We've avoided functions that she has been in attendance to, but my aunt/mom (its complicated) just invited us to Thanksgiving and my sister will also be there.

Our last argument ended with her making a very horrible comment to me: that she hoped I killed my husband and children just like our bio-mother.   Her habit of comparing me to that woman just to hurt me is a large part of why my sister is no longer part of my life.  She also refused to help the family at the last parole board meeting to keep our mother in prison even though I literally begged her to help us. She knew I was terrified for my and my family's lives. She said she doesn't really remember her so why should she care.  I do not want my kids exposed to such a horrible person and my husband agrees.  The rest of my family didn't even argue with me about forgiving her this time.

We would like to attend the family gathering because we don't see the family very often as they live several hours away and family gatherings are pretty rare, maybe once or twice a year.  

My question is should we attend and if we do, how do we deal with my sister?  Is it okay to just make it clear from the start that she is to have no interaction with us or the kids or would that cause too much tension for the rest of the family?  What should we do?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This situation arises in far too many families today. I always advise taking the high road. By that I mean you must take responsibility for what is yours to take care of, and nothing that is not your business. It means having compassion for everyone, especially yourself. It means being grateful for what family you have. It also means setting a good example for your children. Doing the right thing in emotionally charged situations may seem impossible. We are torn in different directions. I suggest you go to Thanksgiving dinner, keeping in mind that the focus of the meal is on being grateful for what we have. 

This does not mean that your children need to interact with your sister, other than to say hello upon arrival. Depending on the age of your children, explain to them that your sister is not well and to stay away from her. This may even be the perfect time to turn this visit into a teachable moment. Explaining boundaries on all levels and teaching your children how to respect and protect theirs and respect those of others. Keep an eye on them and bring some activities along to keep them occupied, preferably in a different room from your sister. I imagine other family members will have strained relations with her as well. Avoid dwelling on negative feelings and keep focused on being grateful for the many blessings in our lives. Never allow toxicity to overpower joy. By not arguing with anyone, except in private, you will naturally be taking the high road. Celebrate this Thanksgiving with gratitude, and with your family like never before. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Stop the interruptions

How do I get my sons to understand when they should listen instead of interrupt all the time? 

Dear Jay,

My wife and I have two teenaged boys are we are equally guilty of interrupting each other during a conversation. As soon as the thought is formed in the brain it comes out in the form of interrupted conversation.  Wonder if you could offer any tips and/or reading that could help us how to proceed.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a great question! In my experience and in my research on the topic of listening, briefly listening comes in two basic forms. The first is listening to understand. The second is listening to respond. Both are important. But what is even more important is to be able to discern between the two and know the difference of when to employ one or the other. The boys are obviously listening to respond. This is what boys do. However, how they behave at home and how they behave socially outside of the home is an entirely different matter. Another basic dynamic at play here is the boys disrespecting you. I imagine you have asked them not to interrupt each other, yet they continue. Perhaps if you explain to them the value of listening to understand, and secondarily to listen to respond, perhaps they’ll be learning an important life skill. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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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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