In-laws seem to be clos­ing in

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - SCREAM - By Amy Dick­in­son askamy@amy­dick­in­ Twit­ter @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: My in-laws live six hours away. I like it that way. They keep talk­ing about mov­ing to our town, but this would be at the cost of our re­la­tion­ship. They’re lovely peo­ple in small doses, but we lived near them for a year when I had my first child, and it was aw­ful. They of­ten don’t re­spect bound­aries and make ev­ery­thing about them­selves. My fa­ther-in-law can be es­pe­cially ob­nox­ious. He fights with me when he’s drink­ing (which is ev­ery night). My hus­band agrees with me about his folks, but it usu­ally falls on my shoul­ders to stand up to them. We’re happy where we are — that’s why we moved!

They feel like their old­est daugh­ter and son-in-law (who live near them now) don’t have time for them any­more. I don’t ei­ther. I would pre­fer to see them on our planned short trips two or three times a year. I want to tell them to stay where they are, but I don’t know how to do that.

— Happy at a Dis­tance

Dear Happy: Your in-laws seem to be fish­ing for en­cour­age­ment, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that you don’t have to bite ev­ery hook that dan­gles. If they ex­plic­itly ask you what you think of the idea of them mov­ing to your town, ask them a se­ries of ques­tions be­fore you re­spond: Why do you want to move? What are you hop­ing for? What fac­tors are in­flu­enc­ing your think­ing? Just feel them out.

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to them, you should re­spond by be­ing hon­est: “We en­joy our vis­its with you, but I in par­tic­u­lar strug­gled when we lived close by be­cause I felt you didn’t re­spect our bound­aries, and I of­ten felt crowded. Liv­ing at a dis­tance has been bet­ter for our re­la­tion­ship, cer­tainly from my per­spec­tive. I don’t know if mov­ing here will achieve your goals.”

If your fa­ther-in-law is a bel­liger­ent al­co­holic, your mother-in-law might need more at­ten­tion than you re­al­ize. Your hus­band and his sis­ter should take a fresh look at their sit­u­a­tion to dis­cern if they are OK. The im­pact of his drink­ing will change over time, and you should all as­sume the sit­u­a­tion at their home might be de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, which may be why they are look­ing for a change. An el­der hous­ing com­mu­nity might be a good fit.

Dear Amy: I re­cently re­ceived a “Dis­play Bridal Shower” in­vi­ta­tion. It states to bring your gift, un­wrapped and un­boxed, to the shower. It will be on “dis­play” so that there’s more time to eat, drink and cel­e­brate the bride-to-be. The mother (my sis­ter-in-law) in­cluded a “To/From” tag that is to be af­fixed onto the gift.

Doesn’t this seem os­ten­ta­tious? This mother and daugh­ter have a his­tory of be­ing mon­ey­mon­gers, at­ten­tion-seek­ers, brag­garts and “trendy” to a fault. I am un­com­fort­able with it. So are some other rel­a­tives. Isn’t the idea of a bridal shower to watch the bride open each gift, see the re­ac­tion on her face, thank the giver and hear the oohs and aahs from the guests?

I’m not THAT old to where I’m not open to some­thing dif­fer­ent, but this seems over the top, and class­less/tacky. What is your take on this? My hus­band says to wrap the gift any­way.

— Tra­di­tional

Dear Tra­di­tional: I re­cently went to a shower like this, and there were al­most 100 guests. It would have been waste­ful, out­landish and ex­haust­ing to wit­ness that amount of un­wrap­ping. Even the most en­thu­si­as­tic guest runs out of “aahs.”

I’m not sure about de­liv­er­ing a gift “un­boxed,” how­ever. This might make it im­pos­si­ble for the bride to ex­change a gift if she re­ceives mul­ti­ples.

Re­gard­less of how “tacky” you might think this is, it is class­less (to use your word) to gossip about this and crit­i­cize it with other fam­ily mem­bers. Ei­ther climb on board and par­tic­i­pate or send your (wrapped) gift, along with your re­grets.

Dear Amy: I liked your an­swer to “Not Quite Nour­ished” un­til you ad­vised them to bring a meat dish to their veg­e­tar­ian rel­a­tive’s house if they wanted to eat meat. I’m a life­long veg­e­tar­ian and would never want meat served at my ta­ble.

— Veg­gie for Life

Dear Veg­gie: Many veg­e­tar­i­ans re­sponded sim­i­larly. “Not Quite Nour­ished” de­scribed all of the fam­ily’s young children as “om­ni­vores,” and so I as­sumed (per­haps in­cor­rectly) that meat was some­times served in these homes. To con­tact Life + Style: Ques­tions? Ideas? Com­ments? Send what’s on your mind to life­and­style@chicagotri­

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