Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Mom Is Being Taken Advantage Of!

Dear Jocelyn,
My mom often lends money to my cousins and they usually don't pay her back. My mom feels guilty she has money and they don't and wants to help. I think she's not helping but enabling. I've pointed out that she's enabling and she's agreed with me and then continues to do it, getting defensive and frustrated when I bring it up again. She doesn't even keep track of what they have borrowed and paid back. The amounts of money range from $1500 to $10,000. My mom has also paid for multiple trips for these cousins- sometimes out of generosity, sometimes because they booked them and then couldn't pay for everything afterwards. I think my mom is setting up my cousins for a lifetime of bad financial decisions, and I think my cousins don't see a need to change bad spending habits because my mom will always bail them out.  I don't even know if it's really my place to say or do anything, but I worry anyway.


Dear Worried
What a tough situation to be in. You see your mother being financially taken advantage of, and nothing you have done so far has helped. Addressing the issue with her was the right move, however, it appears that while she intellectually agrees with you, she doesn't feel like she is doing the right thing by withholding money from your cousins.

Enabling behavior is confusing to those outside of it. While you and I can see that your mother is removing the natural consequences from your cousins' actions (thereby allowing them to develop unhealthy and unsustainable spending patterns), your mother's guilt and desire to help them appears to be clouding her judgment. She probably doesn't think what they are doing is good, but is caught up in the short term desire to make them (and herself!) feel good. She also probably feels the pressure of not wanting them to get in trouble (missing out on a vacation they planned, but couldn't afford).

Your best chance is to see if she will see a licensed psychotherapist about this issue. This is an issue that can take a while to unpack and figure out why she feels like she needs to help them in this way. You can also ask your mother how she would feel if you were doing what she is doing. It might help her to think about her actions from an outside perspective.

If nothing works, then step back and let her experience the consequences of her action. Let her experience having less extra money, trouble paying her own bills, and hurting her relationship with her cousins. And be there for her if and when she decides to make a change.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Should I Date a Less Attractive Man?

Dear Jocelyn,
For several months I have dated a wonderful man who actively (successfully!) seeks to make me happy. Why I write: he does not have conventional movie-star good looks. When we started dating I considered whether looks were important to me, but since I am definitely attracted to him I focused on the fact that he is wonderful and makes me happy.

While he has always been self-conscious about his appearance I have been fortunate to have never worried too much about my looks, which makes for a weird power dynamic in this area: I even wondered recently if strangers wonder why we are together.

We have physical attraction, which is important. However, a friend once asked if my new beau was hot and I didn't know what to say: "Not according to society"? How important is it for your significant other to be found attractive by others? I love him and would like to compliment him on his appearance but don't want to be insincere.
-More than Skin Deep

Dear Skin Deep,
You are not alone in being self-conscious of the disparity of attractiveness levels. It is a common joke in our culture to wonder how a nerdy guy "scored" a hot woman, or what a handsome man sees in a homely-looking lady. While this makes for a funny sitcom plot, it is a terribly shallow way to see a relationship.

Yes, it is nice to date an attractive man or woman. Beautiful people are nice to look at. And if you were buying a piece of artwork, looks would factor most heavily into the decision. But you are not buying art, or arm-candy. You are dating to find a potential spouse. Character, goals, religion, and the like all are important factors to consider. Beauty will eventually fade, but character, humor, and a shared set of values will not.

This is not to say that attraction is not important. Attraction is very important, but (as you have found) is not necessarily based on looks. Something wonderful happens as we get to know a person—our familiarity with and appreciation for their good qualities can produce a powerful attraction.

Looks are not important when dating a person. As to how to answer a well-meaning, but misguided friend who asks if your boyfriend is a "hottie," you can take one of two approaches—super honest or super sweet. "Nope!" said with a big smile and a laugh, or "He is to me!" are both good responses. (Guess which one is which!) Both must have confidence behind the answer, and an unspoken "Don't push this!" to make them work.

For your last question, you can compliment him in whatever way you find honest. Do you enjoy his smile? His eyes? His biceps? One thing to remember is that something does not have to be objectively true (regarding looks) for it to be true for you. If he dresses in a tux and you love how it looks, tell him how handsome he looks. Or squeeze his bicep after he lifts something heavy and say how sexy he is when demonstrating his strength. Stop being concerned about society's standards, and I think you'll find you have plenty to compliment him on.

Should We Allow a Drunk at Our Wedding?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have a dear friend, whom I adore, but her husband (who is working on his sobriety for the last 5 years) got drunk last time he was invited to a party we hosted. He broke a couple of glasses and made everyone feel uncomfortable. My problem is that I am getting married in the summer and my fiance said I can't invite my friend if her husband will come too. Help! They are always together. What do I do?
-Scared of a Scene

Dear Scared,
I'm afraid that there is no easy answer for your situation. You can either just invite your friend, and have a difficult conversation with her about why her husband isn't invited. Or, you can not invite both of them, and either have a difficult conversation with her about why, or just hope she never asks. (Although she will notice, rest assured.)

Do you agree with your future husband about this decision? You said your fiancé said you can't invite them both, so is this a unilateral decision made by him, or is it something you both agree on (but just wish you didn't have to do)? If you really disagree with him, you could try to reach a compromise where the husband is invited, but someone is assigned to be a "bouncer" and keep an eye on him. (This is, in general, a good idea for weddings where alcohol is served, and guests who may have difficulty controlling their intake are attending.) Or, you could not serve alcohol at the wedding, and hope this prevents any problems.

As far as the difficult conversation, here is a rough outline: "Susie, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I can't invite Bob to the wedding. I know he has been working on his sobriety - and we are happy for him - but given how he acted at the party we hosted, we can't risk him slipping up and causing a scene at the wedding. We would still love for you to come, but understand if you don't feel comfortable doing so."

I'm sorry for the situation you are in, and I hope you are able to find a good solution.

Is This Party For Just Anyone?

Dear Jocelyn,
We invited a very close family friend and her husband to my parents "60th" Anniversary Party. The husband could not attend. The friend asked if she could bring a friend of hers that we did not know. We told her it was a small intimate party with only family and the oldest, dearest friends. We're we wrong in saying no? The mother of our friend who was also invited got very upset that we told her daughter she could not bring her friend.

Dear Hostess,
No, you were not wrong to say no. You are, of course, allowed to have anyone (and refuse to have anyone) to a party you are throwing. In addition, when you invite specific people, they are not interchangeable with whoever they want to bring instead. If you had invited "Sarah and guest" she might have had a reason to assume she could bring whoever she wanted, but not if you invited "Sarah and Mark."

Should My Stepson Be Invited To a Wedding?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am remarried, and my husband is offended because his 22 year old son is not invited to a wedding for my niece on New Years Eve. Of course their guest list is limited, but I am wondering if it appropriate for me to ask her if she can invite my step son?

Dear Stepmother
Thank you for your question. While typically a whole family is invited to a wedding (it would be rude to invite a husband without a wife, or kids without parents), this situation is a little different because it is a stepson, and he is an adult. Has your niece met him? Interacted with him? Is he included in family get togethers? If he is typically not around, then I wouldn't expect your niece to invite him. (And I would wonder why your stepson would even want to go!) But if he is included usually, then yes, it is appropriate to ask if he can be invited.

Should I Pay For My Son To Attending a Wedding?

Dear Jocelyn,
My 20 year old son was asked to be the best man in my nephew's wedding. The air fare to travel there is 650.00. Because of the cost of his wedding, I was not invited. Is it right to expect my son to pay? He works, but he is still saving for a car. And his dad is wealthy.
-Not Invited

Dear Not Invited,
Your adult son was asked to be the best man in your nephew (his cousin's) wedding - it is up to him to decide if he can afford to travel there. While it is kind to offer to pay, you are under no obligation (and no expectation) to pay for your son to attend. I would not recommend saying you are doing this because you are not invited, since that will sound bitter. Simply say that he can decide for himself whether he can afford this trip or not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Boyfriend Forgot Me!

Dear Jocelyn,
I have been dating my boyfriend for a bit now and I invited him to my sisters wedding in a little over a month, but I'm really upset that he has his brothers 18th coming up and didn't invite me, when all my friends who are close to the brother have been. He also said the reason he forgot to ask me was because he is 'too busy with college'. I was really hurt by this as I didn't think it was something you would just forget, he also doesn't seem to care that much either, but does seem excited about my sister wedding. I have mentioned it to a few people and they all find it strange and thinks he has another reason for not inviting me, but he denies it. What do I do?

Dear Forgotten,
You are right, forgetting to invite your girlfriend to an event you are throwing is not something that really happens. If he did not want you there (if it were just men attending, or only close friends of his brother's), then that is acceptable to not invite you. However, he is not telling you that he simply did not want you there. He is telling you he forgot.

Is this somehow consistent with his personality? Is he the type that forgets his car keys every morning, or can't remember doctor appointments? If so, then his excuse might be believable. Some people are simply that air-headed. If he is not, and he won't admit to purposefully not inviting you, then there is not much you can do. I personally don't think this is worth breaking up with someone over (unless this is part of a string of questionable actions), but I would file it away as a red flag. If nothing else pops up, then chalk this up to a one - time event. But, if things like this occur more often, it might be time to forget dating him.