Dear Amy: I’m engaged to be married soon.
My fiancee bought a house last year, with a sizable down payment provided by her mother.
A few weeks ago, my future mother-in-law expressed the sentiment that we should wait to put my name on the deed of the house in order “to see how the marriage works out.”
I understand that she wants to protect her investment, but we have decided to combine all of our finances in an effort to show unity, as well as making house-related issues easier for me to handle.
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I feel like she thinks I’m a gold digger. To make matters worse, my fiancee has trouble establishing boundaries with her mother and did not inform her mother of our plans to combine finances until the other day. Her mother said this was “fine,” but I wonder.
My future mother-in-law is fun and generous, and I value her advice, but I could go without directives and intrusiveness in the future.
How do I approach this sensitive subject?
Confused in California
Dear Confused: I agree with your choice to combine finances, and it sounds as if your future mother-in-law does, too.
You could handle this house situation by drawing up a prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreement where you and your future wife agree to repay her mother in full if/when you sell the house. If you and your wife are both on the deed, you might agree to forgo your own individual share of the value of the down payment if you and she divorce. Work out this agreement with a lawyer’s help.
Your future mother-in-law might actually be a great asset to you, if you can listen and learn from her without feeling stomped on. If you don’t want her involved in your finances, do not accept money from her – and pay her back for this down payment as soon as possible.
Like every partnering couple, you and your wife are going to have to work hard to reconfigure your family structure. You two should be inside your (virtual) “house,” with your parents, siblings and others just outside the door. In order to be let in, they must wait to be invited.
Your future mother-in-law poisoned the well somewhat by openly expressing her lack of faith in the staying power of your marriage. Your most positive response would be to prove her wrong.
Dear Amy: How do I tell my young-adult children that their father and I are divorcing after 43 years of marriage? One of them will be getting married next year, which makes this harder for me.
This is their father’s doing and decision. I’m not sure I can present a united front.
Dear Overloaded: First of all, I am very sorry. Forty-three years is a lifetime to be with someone.
Shock is going to be your early reaction to this news, and so my first counsel is for you to give yourself some additional time (two weeks or longer) to walk around inside your new reality before disclosing it to your kids.
There is little reason for you and your husband to present a “united front” to your adult children. United fronts are what functional parents of young kids bravely commit to when explaining their breakup, to lessen the emotional fallout and confusion.
You should make a commitment to feel your own feelings. This can actually be challenging for devoted spouses and parents like you. A confidant, friend, sibling or professional counselor can help.
When you decide to tell your children, it’s OK to say, “I’m not sure what’s going on. I’m confused and upset. This wasn’t my choice.” What you shouldn’t do is confide unproven allegations, ask them to communicate to their father for you or ask them to prove their loyalty to one parent over the other.
You should reassure the child getting married that you and their father will keep the focus on their marriage, not yours, on their big day.
Dear Amy: I was disgusted by your PC answer to the letter from “Colleague,” who said he wanted to wear a traditional Indian ceremonial shirt to the office for Halloween.
Halloween is a fun day when people dress in costumes. This day, along with so many others, is being ruined by people like you.
Dear Disgusted: Halloween is a day when children dress up and go door to door, begging for candy. If you want to dress up in a ceremonial costume at the office, then pick one from your own culture. Otherwise, grow up.
Email Amy at email@example.com.