Fa­ther-in-law passes the buck

The Mercury News - - Legal Advertising And Public Notices - Ask Amy Con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email at [email protected] amy­dick­in­son.com.

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 take-out in­stead of hav­ing a home-cooked meal. 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 take-out meals at fam­ily events and have never asked for (or been of­fered) com­pen­sa­tion.

This is also an ex­am­ple of an in­creas­ingly fre­quent sit­u­a­tion where my fa­ther-in-law ef­fec­tively dic­tates how my wife and I spend our money. For my son’s birth­day, he of­fered to cover half of the cost of mu­sic les­sons. It was a lovely idea, but it also sad­dled us with an ad­di­tional ex­pense (I ended up pay­ing for all of the les­sons).

In my view, if he felt my sis­ter-in-law needed to be re­paid, he could have made the point at the time of the meal, or he could have cho­sen to take care of it him­self.

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 in­laws. It is fine for them to treat their chil­dren how­ever they wish, but I don’t be­lieve that also con­scripts me to fol­low suit.

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 (as I sin­cerely be­lieve you are) doesn’t al­ways com­pen­sate for feel­ing petty.

DEAR AMY >> Wow, I iden­ti­fied with “Grunged,” who is stuck with dis­gust­ing house­mates.

When I last roomed with two guys and a gal, we de­vel­oped a so­lu­tion.

We re­ferred to it as the 24-hour rule.

If one made a mess in the kitchen and did not clean it up within 24 hours, the dishes landed on that per­son’s pil­low at the end of that pe­riod. It cured all fu­ture kitchen cleanups.

— Grunge So­lu­tion

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