Dear Annie: My daughter and her husband are about to have their first baby. Unfortunately, my daughter is having problems with her mother-in-law, “Myrna,” and comes crying to me. I think my adult kids need to handle their own problems, but I want to be able to give advice when asked.
I offered to talk to Myrna, but my daughter says it will only create a bigger problem. But when I hear that Myrna expects to see my daughter in church every Sunday, or that Myrna expects to babysit, or that my daughter should give up her career and be a “good wife” and take care of her husband and child, I just boil over.
My son-in-law has tried talking to his mother, but she makes him feel horribly guilty, and then she behaves even worse. I’ve told my daughter that life doesn’t come with instructions, so we have to learn how to live with those who may disagree with us. But I really would like to hear your advice. — Lost for Words
Dear Lost: You’re doing a pretty good job without us, but since you asked, here’s our two cents: Your daughter needs to learn how to smile sweetly at Myrna’s demands and then ignore her. She and her husband also must set boundaries for Myrna, which means Mom is not allowed to intrude on their choices of careers, babysitters or church attendance. It will work if your son-in-law firmly takes his wife’s side on these issues, no matter how manipulative Myrna becomes.
Dear Annie: I’m a down-to-earth, 24-year-old woman, and I’ve been dating an incredible 32-year-old guy for a year. “Hank” is funny, smart, handsome, sweet and easygoing. I’m totally in love with him.
So what’s the problem? Hank is a medical resident. Right now, he’s in serious debt from tuition, but he’s genuinely afraid that a woman will want him only for the six-figure salary he’ll earn when he has completed his residency.
I know these thoughts are not specific to me, but being his girlfriend, I can’t help but take strong offense. He knows I’m no gold digger, but the future I want includes marriage and children. Hank is ambivalent about the idea of marriage, but he’s all for a prenup. I don’t believe in a prenup, since it is based on the assumption that I want his money, which is insulting. I don’t even believe in alimony. I’m a college graduate and financially independent.
This issue is hindering our relationship. We’ve already had a few problems resulting from my insecurity about our future together. In fact, I’ve broken up with him a couple of times, but he always wants me back.
I know Hank truly cares for me, but I’m not sure if he ever will be willing to marry, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the bottom line. I love him more than anything, but I wonder if I’m on a dead-end path. Any advice? — Baltimore, Md.
Dear Baltimore: Let’s clear up one thing first — there is nothing wrong with a prenup. Granted, it isn’t very romantic, but there are no guarantees where marriage is concerned, and a prenup can protect your assets as well as Hank’s. Before rejecting the idea, discuss it with an attorney and understand the pros and cons. Once that is no longer standing in your way, you then will know if Hank plans to marry you, or has been using the prenup as an excuse to avoid commitment.
Dear Annie: This is for “Heartbroken,” whose mother-in-law referred to her as an “outlaw” instead of an “in-law.” Please tell her the difference between outlaws and in-laws is that outlaws are wanted. She should take it as a compliment. — Missourian
Dear Missourian: We’re afraid that particular mother-in-law would put “Heartbroken’s” picture on a poster in the sheriff’s office, but thanks for providing a reason to make light of the issue.
“Annie’s Mailbox” is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.