Mom’s checks could be fu­el­ing her son’s gam­bling, but who’s the real en­abler?

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - Carolyn Hax in wed­dias res.

Hi, Carolyn: Do I have a right to be up­set bymy mother-in-law’s mon­e­tary gifts?

Oc­ca­sion­ally, my mother-in-law will sendmy hus­band a check, made out solely to him. I find out about it if I get the mail and specif­i­cally ask what my mother-in-law sent. I sus­pect there have been oc­ca­sions where money has been sent and it was their lit­tle se­cret. I feel shut out, and this dis­turbs me.

We re­ally don’t need the money, butmy hus­band likes to gam­ble and usu­ally spends it at the casino, so there is noth­ing to show for it. My mother-in-law has a fam­ily mem­ber with a gam­bling ad­dic­tion, so I know she would not ap­prove of this, but she is un­wit­tingly en­abling this be­hav­ior. I’d rather the money be spent on some­thing tan­gi­ble, but I don’t know if I even have a right to be up­set. It’s her money, and she’s giv­ing it to her son. Should I just butt out?

This is a note to all par­ents of adult chil­dren — your gen­eros­ity might be un­der­min­ing your kids’ re­la­tion­ships in ways you can’t imag­ine. Thank you very lit­tle.

Not Par­tic­u­larly Grate­ful

If you think the only thing keep­ing spouses from shar­ing parental wind­falls is an ex­tra name on the “pay to the or­der of” line, then who’s the en­abler here?

A check made out to your hus­band can only un­der­mine your mar­riage if he chooses to gam­ble it away in se­cret. So, yes, be up­set at your hus­band. Even if you be­lieve 100 per­cent that the money is hers and there­fore his, you still have ev­ery right to your say: “[Hus­band], it both­ers me that we never talked about how we should han­dle these checks from your mom. If you be­lieve they’re yours alone, then I don’t nec­es­sar­ily dis­agree, I’d just like to be part of that de­ci­sion.” Even if the money is “mine” or “yours,” its des­ig­na­tion as such needs to be “ours.”

This is where you also dis­cuss your dis­com­fort with the gam­bling.

You don’t need the money now, but if you ever do, then you don’t want that to be the first time you have the yours-mi­neours con­ver­sa­tion. Any re­spon­si­bil­ity for any dis­con­tent — with his se­crecy, his gam­bling, this on­go­ing ma­ter­nal pipeline — falls smack in the mid­dle of your mar­riage. Mak­ing mom-in-law the tar­get of your re­sent­ment is just grab­bing the easy way out, not to men­tion flatly un­fair.

Dear Carolyn: I am­go­ing to a wed­ding in a month withmy wife of 25 years. The three-day func­tion will have many peo­ple frommy past.

Two ofmy past high school/ col­lege flames will be at­tend­ing. My wife doesn’t know them, nor ofmy past re­la­tion­ships with these women. They have never come up in any past dis­cus­sions. My wife is aware they will be there but be­lieves they were sim­ply friends with­out ben­e­fits. I have not been in touch with them since the 1970s.

I amas­sum­ingmy in­ti­mate past with them will NOT come up, but one never knows as the booze will flow. Should I tell her be­fore we go, or hope that dis­cre­tion will hold out?

Won­der­ing in At­lanta

I know us­ing your sin­cere re­quest for ad­vice as a cau­tion­ary tale is ex­ploita­tive and un­fair, but I’mdo­ing it any­way:

If there’s some­thing you feel you just can’t tell your po­ten­tial/ new ro­man­tic part­ner for fear of scar­ing the per­son off, please take that as a sign that it’s ex­actly what you need to dis­cuss with this per­son. Or, in this case, needed to have dis­cussed 25-plus years ago. That a sub­ject seems un­touch­able is usu­ally an in­di­ca­tor of its im­por­tance, at least to one of you.

There’s a much more straight­for­ward truth in play here, too: Booze can’t un­loose se­crets you don’t have.

If in­stead you choose to pa­per over, white­wash and play down, that’s when you end up wring­ing your hands with dread over an im­mi­nent en­counter with some­one you haven’t laid a hand on since half a life­time ago.

The op­tions re­main­ing to you at this point, with the half-truth­ful foun­da­tion in place, are not only lim­ited, but also need­lessly charged. You can ei­ther tell her about these women (“Re­mem­ber when I told you about those two fe­male friends of mine? Well, we, uh . . .”), or you can de­cide that con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two mid­dle-agers is too ridicu­lous to have and in­stead let the week­end play out.

I won’t steer you to one or the other — not be­cause I don’t have an opin­ion, but be­cause your fate seems al­ready sealed. A spouse who will flip her lid over your hav­ing touched! other! women! be­fore her! will do so whether prepped or am­bushed, and a spouse who ac­cepts there were oth­ers be­fore her — duh — will have her duh-re­flex en­gaged whether in­formed in ad­vance or

Some­times you just have to hope you mar­ried well — and have fewer drinks than your date. Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at http://bit.ly/hax­post.

3Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

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