The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Source - BY CAROLYN HAX

Dear Carolyn:

Should I in­vite my girl­friend along on a house- hunt­ing trip with me, even though we have no cur­rent plans to live to­gether? We’ve been dat­ing for over a year and live in sep­a­rate apart­ments, but I am look­ing to buy a house soon some­where nearby.

On the one hand, I’d very much like her to come along, be­cause I value her opin­ion and her judg­ment and I don’t want to shut her out of this process. On the other hand, I worry that invit­ing her along will cre­ate the mis­taken im­pres­sion that we’re head­ing for co­hab­i­ta­tion. Any thoughts?

— Con­fused House Hunter

If you think the worst case is that you give her false hopes, then don’t in­vite her along.

To me, though, the worst case would be to over­rule a gen­uine, flat­ter­ing, thought­ful im­pulse to in­clude her, just be­cause she might mis­read it.

In fact, false hopes aren’t even my sec­ond­worst case, which would be to as­sume she’s ea­ger to live with you when in fact she has no cur­rent plans for that, ei­ther.

That’s why, when in doubt, it’s best just to say no more and no less than ex­actly what you want her to hear — “ I’d very much like you to come along, be­cause I value your opin­ion and judg­ment.” If you add, “. . . and I don’t want to shut you out of this process,” I think you are sug­gest­ing you en­vi­sion her in this house with you some­day — which is fine, but only if you re­ally mean it.

She can still read just about any­thing she wants into your in­vi­ta­tion, and you can both strug­gle to deal with that if it hap­pens. But just be­cause that might be hard, it doesn’t mean you should go to great lengths to avoid it ( see my worst case, above). A lit­tle awk­ward­ness — or, even bet­ter, the ab­sence of it — can tell a cou­ple a lot about how well the re­la­tion­ship works. Dear Carolyn:

I am hav­ing baby No. 2 in a few months, and my mother and mother- in- law want to have a shower for me. I’ve never been to a shower for a sec­ond baby, and I re­ally, re­ally don’t want friends and fam­ily to feel ob­li­gated to bring yet an­other gift when we’ve re­ceived so much over the past two years for our first child. We are very well- stocked with the baby gear!

I ex­plained this to my mom/ mom- in- law, and they still want to do it. I know they just want to do some­thing nice for me. Should I stick up for what I think about this, or am I be­ing an in­con­sid­er­ate party pooper?

— Mid­west

I think you’re be­ing an ex­tremely con­sid­er­ate party pooper.

Be­come a creative one, and maybe you can make ev­ery­one happy. Just be­cause there’s a causal link be­tween shower in­vi­ta­tions and boxes of molded plas­tic doesn’t mean you’d be wrong to break it.

Ask your mother and mother- in- law for an ideas- not- gifts shower, where peo­ple write, in a card, their fa­vorite recipe, sto­ry­books or rainy- day dis­trac­tions; or a fam­ily- feeder, where peo­ple bring din­ners you can freeze for later; or what­ever else you and the grand­mas think up. Less work, less money, more love.


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