When my husband and I married, years ago, we created a blended family of children from our prior marriages. Together, we decided that travel was important to us, and we prioritized it: We stayed in our small house and drove used cars to pay for annual family trips. Now, the children are grown, but we want to continue taking them on vacations. So far, we have included our son’s longtime partner. Our other two children are single, but we have a dilemma with our daughter’s best friend and roommate. Our daughter asked if she could bring her on a recent theater outing. We weren’t enthusiastic about spending $150 on a seventh ticket, but her friend had to work, so it became a nonissue. But what if this comes up on our next family vacation to Ireland? Do we have to pay for her? Are platonic partners on the same level as romantic ones?
I admire the care that you and your husband took to prioritize family experiences over possessions. I bet it wasn’t easy; kids have a way of clamoring for stuff. But back then, you and your husband were the only adults. Now, there are five grown-ups. So it doesn’t really matter how I rank these different relationships: You should talk to your children about this.
Now, if you and your husband have strong feelings here, game over! It’s your money. But to me, your question suggests a desire to treat your children equally and to be respectful of relationships that are important to them. I can imagine someone prizing a best friend and roommate as highly as a romantic partner; I can also imagine someone who wouldn’t. So ask your daughter how she feels. There are many ways to make a family; sex and romance are not required.
Going forward, gather the children and reiterate your commitment to family travel. Share your budget, and the total costs for immediate family members. Depending on the surplus, you can cover some (or all) of the travel costs of partners and chosen family members — or you can throw those costs back to the children involved. Try to be openhearted, though. It will serve you better to be inclusive than to decide unilaterally which of your children’s relationships matter more.
In the Right, but Keeping Quiet
My husband’s father left his mother when my husband was 2. He didn’t come back into my husband’s life until he was on his third wife and my husband was 19. The wife has three daughters. Often, she talks about celebrations and explains that only family is attending — without inviting us. My husband says he doesn’t care, but this drives me crazy. Can I ask her to stop telling me about these events?
I get your annoyance at having your nose rubbed in your exclusion. But I would keep quiet, for your husband’s sake. It sounds as if he has a complicated history with his father, and he told you he doesn’t care about this. I would hate for you to offend his stepmother (even though I understand your feelings) if it could lead to estrangement or awkwardness between father and son. This seems like his call to me.
The Sharp Smell of a Sweet Gesture
I began dating my generous boyfriend two years ago. His first gift to me was an expensive bottle of perfume. Unfortunately, it was too strong for me. A year later: another powerful and expensive scent. I suggested exchanging it, but he said: “No! It’s a gift!” I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I would like to sell the perfumes and use the money for us as a couple. Thoughts?
Not every gift is going to be a humdinger. (It’s a cliché for a reason: It’s the thought that counts.) I also ride out gifts I don’t care for if they have sentimental value: family heirlooms, for instance. But we’re talking about store-bought perfumes here. Stop worrying about seeming ungrateful and start enjoying yourself.
Thank your boyfriend for his undisputed thoughtfulness, then exchange the perfume for something you like — or resell it, if you prefer, and spend the money as you choose. (You don’t have to buy something for the two of you!) I disagree with your boyfriend that you’re saddled with these bottles forever simply because they were gifts. And, after two years together, why not tell him you’re not much into scent? Many people aren’t.
Harshing Grandma’s Mellow
Last summer, when my family and I were visiting my grandparents in Colorado, I walked in on my grandma smoking weed. She didn’t see me, but I still feel uncomfortable about it. Her health hasn’t been great, and I am concerned. Relatives have asked me if I know anything, but I’ve kept my mouth shut. Should I confront my grandma or tell my family what I saw?
Hang on! You saw your grandmother smoking weed one time. What makes you think it’s a problem, or even related to her health issues? Unless there’s a pertinent fact you haven’t shared, I’d stay out of this. (If you’re a young person — just a hunch — and feel burdened by what you saw, tell your parents.) And if you still want to talk to your grandmother, tone down the judgment and make sure to do some research into the impressive medicinal properties of cannabis first.