Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Howdy Carolyn: My mother-in-law chose heirloom jewelry pieces from her collection to give to both me and to her other son’s wife, “Charlotte.” She chose the pieces based on appearance and not based on value; I don’t know if anyone still gets their colors done, but I’m a “summer” and Charlotte is a “winter.” As such, the piece I received is quite a bit more valuable, which Charlotte and I did not realize till we got together this past weekend.
Charlotte feels this is part of a pattern of our mother-in-law’s favoring me and treating me better. I can 100 percent see why she feels that way, but am not sure how I can help with that. Any suggestions?
You can offer to swap necklaces. Put your sympathy where your neck is, or something like that.
You can also validate her. “I don’t know if it’s true in this case, but I agree she does play favorites, and I wish she wouldn’t.”
And: “She’s missing out, though. I think you’re great.” You can also point out, as appropriate, that favoritism isn’t always a fixed quantity. She may warm to Charlotte, and maybe even turn on you in the process if favoritism is her way of wielding power.
And you can be more than just mindful; you can take it upon yourself to redistribute any spoils in a way that’s fair to Charlotte. I’ve seen this happen, where the favored one nudged part of her share over to the unfavored one. It wasn’t just an act of memorable decency, but also brought the two of them closer for life.
Dear Carolyn: Daughter and fiance are getting married where they live, a seven-hour plane ride from where we live. My other two kids have small children and can’t afford to come without some help.
My husband and I gave money to our other two kids when they got married. Daughter hasn’t asked us for anything, and I know they are planning a low-key event. My husband and I are considering giving half of Daughter’s wedding money to the others so they can attend.
I am trying to decide if I should tell Daughter this. She might not know or remember what we contributed to their weddings. We could just give her half and she isn’t the type to question it.
My husband said he can’t put his finger on why, but he feels uneasy with that. I think it’s fine if we don’t tell Daughter but are honest with her if she asks, which she is unlikely to do. Do you think we should tell her or not?
If it’s fine, then why the shenanigans? Why not just make the offer outright to your daughter?
Yes, it’s your money, so you can use it as you please. But I could easily come up with reasons to offer her the same money you gave the others and let the couple decide for themselves on sibling travel …
Fortunately, though, I don’t have to type out any, since your husband’s discomfort is enough. Why would you push for something he feels funny about?
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.