Dear Amy: My spouse, one of the most caring and genuine people I’ve ever met, has been inviting his elderly homeless mother into our house for meals, and on occasion, to bathe or do laundry. This happens a few times a month, typically during the day. He works from home. I work elsewhere.
We live a comfortable life in a large city, and she’s able to get to our house on a bus or a train relatively easily. She’s had a hard time for several years, due to substance-abuse issues and minor brushes with the law. I’ve been fine with these visits if she’s only here for a few hours.
Then we started noticing small household items missing – a toiletry item here or there, some medication, a utensil. We were annoyed, but did not make it an issue because we thought she needed these things but didn’t want to ask.
Then I got a call that several of my personal checks had been stolen and were being used fraudulently at nearby businesses.
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Once we got copies of the checks, it was clear that the handwriting matched my mother-in-law’s. We confronted her about it, and she denied being responsible. I feel that she should no longer be allowed into the house, but my spouse will not commit to that.
He still doubts that she was behind the stolen checks (despite all of the evidence), and feels that even if she was, we should give her another chance. I feel like that’s asking for something worse to happen. Currently, we’re at an impasse, and the resentment on this topic is building. What do I do?
Dear Torn: If your husband truly believes that his mother didn’t steal your checks and forge your signature, then this means that there is a thief and a forger loose in the neighborhood. Shouldn’t the police get involved?
I raise this scenario because – of course his mother did this. Furthermore, he knows it. But – this is his mother. Your husband is trying to take care of and protect her. Please understand that children of addicts are prone to be anxious caretakers, as they try to make the world right in ways they know (deep down) are beyond repair. His behavior now speaks to the magnitude of his decency – and his powerlessness. I hope you can react to him with compassion, even when you’re furious at this serious violation. If he wants to give his mother a second chance, you should accept this.
Lock away your valuables, medication, checks and financial records.
It might help both of you if you could play a more active role, so you two communicate openly and calmly about his mother and make decisions as a team. A social worker could help you to establish realistic boundaries and perhaps set her up with services. You should both attend Al-Anon meetings (www.al-anon.alateen.org).
Dear Amy: When I get a notification that it’s someone’s birthday on social media, I normally disregard it and don’t post on their timeline wishing them happy birthday. Mainly, this is because I don’t feel that it’s genuine and it’s more of a social norm than a sincere gesture.
However, if it’s someone close, I’ll send them a personal message, call them or mention it if I see them in person.
I understand that social media is the king of staying in contact and a lot of people expect it or may find it rude to be ignored, but should I feel bad if I don’t?
Not So Social
Dear Not So Social: No – you should not feel bad if you don’t post a happy birthday message. Social media is there to help people to connect in the ways that they want to connect. You get to be in charge of how, when or if you want to be in touch. The birthday notifications that pop up can be a nice prompt to get in touch with someone, but you should not feel compelled or pressured to celebrate on the social media platform.
Dear Amy: “Shocked on the West Coast” reported on a generous gesture she made regularly by bringing cookies to a musical ensemble she was a part of.
Amy, thank you for making a point to praise all of the generous bakers out there. I have a colleague who brings in a home-baked treat to the office every week. It is a small thing, but it makes a lot of people happy.
Dear Grateful: I hope you’ll clip this and post it near the office snack table.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.