Dear Amy: I need some help countering favoritism in my in-law family.
My mother-in-law has been handing nice antiques to my husband’s younger brother, while at the same time giving my husband broken trinket items.
(I have written thank you notes for every item.)
I have tried to take the approach in private that we should expect nothing.
It’s very hard to attend gatherings where my MIL bestows a gigantic heirloom on my BIL after years of her crowing that everything would go to her eldest son (my husband).
It feels like some cruel experiment where one child is starved and the other is given every resource possible – in front of the starving one, for added drama.
My BIL is sheepish, but he tends to enjoy his largesse.
He hasn’t offered to split any of the big-ticket items with his elder brother, the one who was promised the things to begin with.
We have enough money to buy our own things, but it is disappointing to discover years of empty promises.
I don’t want my MIL to know that years of slights have left their mark.
It would be an absolute slam dunk if my husband and I could appear too busy traveling and being successful to notice she’d given the entire household to her younger son!
How can I appear not to be hurt?
– Upset DIL
Dear Upset: It is possible that your mother-in-law believes that she is actually rebalancing her relationship with her sons.
After all, she displayed the terrible judgment throughout the years to promise all of her possessions to her eldest son. Perhaps those promises didn’t yield whatever reaction she desired (loyalty, dependence, control), and so now she is switching it up.
The effect of her behavior now is to drive a wedge between the two brothers, based on the flimsiest of reasons: i.e., who went home with the samovar.
The best way to appear not to be hurt is to not actually be hurt. The best way to counter favoritism is to accept it for what it is: an unfortunate and unfair attempt to manipulate and control.
If your husband’s feelings are hurt, he (not you) should discuss this with his mother: “Mom, give your things to whomever you like. But your blatant favoritism – first to me, now to my brother – is not good for our relationship.”
Dear Amy: In planning a fun outing with a group of friends, would it be rude of me to add to our usual texted invite, “please, no politics discussed, whatsoever?”
One friend is extremely constantly vocal on social media. Her posts can be very nasty and often include misinformation.
I love my friends. The few times we can all get together should be enjoyable. I want to talk about what we’re doing, our families, etc., like we always have for years, but my friend has gone off the deep end.
I don’t mind a little political discussion here and there (very little), but not with someone who gets very vocal, sometimes mean, and refuses to hear other opinions.
I’m so nervous that politics will be brought up and it will be so uncomfortable, I’ll just have to excuse myself and leave.
I’d like to head off this topic!
– This Girl Just Wants to Have Fun
Dear Girl: Yes, I believe it would be rude for you to declare certain topics verboten when issuing an invitation.
What are you prepared to do if this friend (or another friend) violates your rule?
I believe it’s better to anticipate this happening, and respond calmly and rationally in the moment: “Gina, I know this is a hot topic for you, but I’m hoping we can reconnect without politics today.”
Also, disconnect from her on social media. I left Facebook altogether a few months ago, and my blood pressure immediately returned to normal.
It is easier to remain friends with people when I’m not exposed to their rants. They’ve also been spared pictures of my dog.
Dear Amy: Each year when you take a break from your column, you run “Best of” columns. I enjoy them, but why must you announce that you are taking a break and when you will be back? We know you’re away because you are rerunning columns. Enough with the explanation.
Dear Annoyed: I do it that way because I want readers to be aware that I work on projects other than the column. I have written two books with the help of these breaks, and I’m proud of that!
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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