Fa­ther-in-law of­ten passes the buck

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - MOVIES - Amy Dick­in­son Read­ers can send email to [email protected]­dick­in­son.com or let­ters to “Ask Amy” P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY, 13068.

Dear Amy: Over the hol­i­days my wife and two young chil­dren were with my wife’s fam­ily (her mom, dad, sis­ter, brother-in-law and their two chil­dren). My sis­ter-in-law in­sisted that we or­der take­out. We or­dered in, and she paid for the meal.

Days later my fa­ther-in­law sug­gested that he and I should give her money for the meal ($47 each). I’m an­noyed by this for a few rea­sons: I have pur­chased sev­eral more ex­pen­sive take­out meals at fam­ily events and have never asked for (or been of­fered) com­pen­sa­tion.

This is an ex­am­ple of an in­creas­ingly fre­quent sit­u­a­tion where my fa­ther-in-law ef­fec­tively dic­tates how my wife and I spend our money. This is also an ex­ten­sion of a per­ceived dif­fer­ence in eco­nomic po­si­tion be­tween my wife and I, and her sis­ter’s fam­ily. As a re­sult, they tend to be treated more gen­er­ously by my in-laws. Am I just be­ing petty and cheap? — Son-in-law

Dear Son-in-law: Your fa­ther-in-law’s sug­ges­tions may sound like com­mand­ments to you, and you may feel pres­sured be­cause he is your fa­ther-in-law, but you are an adult and you can make a choice to get on board — or re­spond re­spect­fully: “Thanks for the sug­ges­tion. This is gen­er­ous of you. But I’ve picked up the check any num­ber of times; my the­ory is that these things even out in the end.”

You say that this has be­come a per­sis­tent is­sue; be­cause it seems you can ac­tu­ally af­ford to be more gen­er­ous, you should choose the path that causes you to feel the best about your­self. You can try to an­tic­i­pate, par­tic­i­pate and learn to tol­er­ate this ex­pec­ta­tion — and come off as mag­nan­i­mous and gen­er­ous — or you can po­litely push back and tol­er­ate the uncer­tainty that ac­com­pa­nies won­der­ing if you are be­ing stingy. Be­ing righ­teously cor­rect doesn’t al­ways com­pen­sate for feel­ing petty.

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