How can I be closer to my in-laws when they criticize me behind my back?


My partner’s parents frequently complain that they don’t talk to our kids often enough or have a closer bond with me. My spouse then asks me that the children call them and that I make a bigger effort myself. But my in-laws never call or text us! I explained to him that relationships are a two-way street and that it is not reasonable to expect us to initiate all contact. However, he does not want to upset them. In the background: His parents are generous with us financially (large loans and expensive trips). But for many years, I’ve heard them talk badly about me when they thought I wasn’t there: criticizing me, our home, my interactions with my partner, and the way we raise our children. No advice?


The most important relationship here is between you and your partner, right? So, let’s focus on that. You mention telling him about the unfair burden of initiating any contact with your in-laws. And it seems unlikely that you kept quiet (to him, anyway) about their overheard searches of you. So how does your partner propose to handle these issues?

I get that he doesn’t like to upset his parents, but he can’t reasonably expect your relationship with them to flourish or even encourage your kids to call people who push you behind your back – unless he thinks the emotional job of caring for his parents is your job, or that you and your children are bought and paid for by his parents’ generosity. Neither position is attractive.

Talk to your partner. There probably can’t be any significant improvement in relationships here without all the adults talking about the criticisms you’ve heard (which may be valid, by the way, but are still unlikely to endear you to them kindly). Or you can carry on as things are, with your partner’s parents laughing at you and the kids while making big loans and paying for vacations. You and your partner should chart a course together.

I have a close friend since childhood. We talk on the phone about work, our children and mutual friends. The problem: My friend often mentions how much things cost: how much was spent, how much was saved, etc. She is financially well off. Once, I clarified that we weren’t equal financially, hoping she would get the hint. She didn’t, and her insensitivity is starting to hurt me. How do I tell him that I like being in touch, but his constant references to money make me feel uncomfortable?


I would delete the oblique notes. How was your friend supposed to know that you wanted her to stop talking about money just because you told her you weren’t “financially equal”? I guess that means you have less money than her. However, the mere declaration of your relative positions in no way reflects your desire.

If you want your “close friend” to stop talking about cash, tell her! Money is a source of anxiety for many people, even those who are well off financially. It is often found in conversations with close friends. So, feel free to repeat your needs if necessary.

Is it fair that I’m offended that my boyfriend’s mom doesn’t include me in the picture on her family’s greeting card? Her son and I have been dating for almost four years; we live together, have a dog together, and plan to get engaged in 2023. Two daughters-in-law feature prominently, which leads me to believe I’m left out because we didn’t exchange rings. Am I too sensitive?


It’s not my job to judge your feelings. I’m sorry you feel left out. And I bet you’re right: your boyfriend’s mother probably considers the family to be blood relatives and their legal spouses. It’s not an uncommon sight, and it’s her greeting card, after all.

I would feel differently if you weren’t allowed to get married, or even if you were a committed couple who decided marriage wasn’t for you. But you and your boyfriend seem to be at a different stage: living together but not ready to be engaged. (And I have no idea what “follow to get engaged” means.) If you don’t agree, talk to your boyfriend. Maybe you could approach his mother together about next year’s card.

My girlfriend, who I love very much, wants us to trade New Year’s resolutions. She thinks we have a better chance of keeping them and holding each other accountable that way. Can I tell her that I think New Year’s resolutions are dumb?


Well, I agree that a lot of New Year’s resolutions are short-lived: lose 10 pounds or learn Mandarin. They are often forgotten during the week! But maybe your girlfriend is considering more personal resolutions for you and her: cooking dinner at home more often or taking more road trips. Otherwise, point it in that direction. Creating common goals for your relationship in the coming year seems smart.

For help with your predicament, send a question to, Philip Galanes on Facebook, or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.


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