Hax: Accepting sister's older boyfriend and splitting time with in-laws and parents

The Washington PostJanuary 2, 2014 

Dear Carolyn: My sister just turned 21 and has just started dating a 30-year-old. I think the relationship is inappropriate given the age difference, but when I bring it up with her, she becomes defensive and the conversation almost always ends with one of us hanging up on the other. To add a little context, she met this man at college. They are both undergraduates, but he has previously been in the military and is getting his degree at an older age. Am I right to be suspicious of an older gentleman's intentions, or am I overreacting? How can I approach this productively with my sister?

ANONYMOUS

(1) Overreacting; (2) Bite your tongue.

She's 21. Stop hovering, stop thinking you can or should cushion her world for her, and go to the window to say hello to 2014. "An older gentleman's intentions"? Click.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I and our two young kids live about equal distance from my and his parents, about two hours away in different directions. His parents say, oh we'll get all this baby stuff for our house to make it easy for you to visit! My parents say, why should we get stuff for our house when you're not here very often?

His parents have kid-friendly food, wake up early to play with the kids, etc., while mine sleep in late (so we feel we have to keep quiet), don't buy anything extra, don't do much playing.

My mom definitely notices how much more time we spend with my in-laws. I enjoy spending time with them a lot more than with my parents, and so do my kids. We do split our time at holidays and major events as equally as possible. How do I handle my mom's hostility over this?

UNEQUAL

Tell her the truth. "Mom, I love you and want you to be closer to the kids, but this is a practical move on our part: The in-laws' home is very young-kid friendly, and yours is not."

Then: "If you're not OK with that, then I'm happy to talk about ways we can start shifting it now." Mention equipment, kid food, early wake-ups, willingness to play. She says, "Why equip the house if you don't come"? You say, "We'll come if you equip the house."

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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