Arts & Leisure

Dear Mari: Get the old grump some pals

HER FATHER-IN-LAW is driving her nuts with his criticism and grumpiness (Shutterstock photo).

Dear Marilyn,

I am 25 years old, I’m married, and I have two beautiful children, ages 2 ½ and 14 months. Sometimes I feel like I have another child…my father-in-law. We’ll call him Sam.

We all moved in together four years ago, right before I gave birth to my first child. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. My husband had just started a new job, and wasn’t making a lot of money. I was working at the time.

   We weren’t sure if I would continue to work, and pay for day care, or if could quit work and stay home with my child. We were hoping that I could stay home, at least for the first year.  Sam is in his 70’s. He has muscular dystrophy, and he was having difficulty living alone.

So, it seemed like it would be a “win win” situation for all of us for Sam to move in with us. He agreed to pay for 1/3 of the rent. He would not have to live on his own, and the extra income meant that I could stay home with the new baby.

Well, it didn’t take long for my husband and I to feel like we had made a mistake. As much as we appreciated the fact that I could stay home with our first, and then both, of our children, Sam has grown increasingly annoying to both of us. He won’t leave the house. We have urged him many times to take advantage of the resources that are available to him, both because of his disability and because he is a senior.

However, he always comes up with a bunch of lame excuses are to why he won’t go out. He says he doesn’t want to be around a “bunch of old people.” Here’s a news flash … Sam is not a spring chicken! So, Sam just stays in the house ALL DAY LONG, every day. Sam watches my every move, and makes “suggestions” as to how I should do things. He criticizes my husband’s friends, and is constantly giving me unwanted suggestions as to when I should give the children a bath, or how I can improve my cooking!

My husband loves my cooking, and he thinks I’m a wonderful mom. I do too. Oh, and I think his friends are great. But, to Sam, we are never good enough.  If only Sam would get out of the house and socialize with people his own age on a regular basis, he might not be so bored and unhappy.

Help us! Our dilemma is: should we put up with Sam, and continue to be unhappy with our living arrangements? Or, should we part ways, and move to a smaller place that we can afford on our own? I think that we would be much happier, but we would be strapped for cash. My husband will do whatever I want to, but his choice would be for us to go out on our own. What do you think?

Signed, Daughter-In –Law That Wants Privacy


Dear Daughter-In-Law That Wants Privacy,

   Trust your instincts. You have felt that you made a mistake for some time now, so that means that you have. You must make changes to your current situation.

   First of all, try for a compromise. It is time for a heart to heart talk with Dear Old Sam! Your husband and you need to let him know that either he is going to have to spend some time away from the house, or you will have to make new living arrangements for all of you.

   It is very likely that Sam is afraid to try to go out. He feels much safer at home. So, perhaps you or your husband could go with him the first couple of times out.

   Here in Garden Grove, for example, there is the Acacia Adult Day Services, that he could try. There is also a lot of fun going on at senior centers in Huntington Beach (great huge new one!), Westminster and Garden Grove. These are the type of options that he should explore.

   Make these suggestions, and advise him that you will go with him a few times to “check them out”.

   Let him know that unless he agrees to this, that you will end your living arrangements. Let him know that you and your husband love him, but that you need your own time and your own privacy too. Also, it will be good for him to have other things to think about, and to do.

   If he refuses, then I would absolutely look into other arrangements for your family. The strain on your finances is nothing like the strain on your family.


Dear Marilyn,

I am writing to you because I feel torn. I am a twin. We are 19 years old. I now have my first real boyfriend. He is absolutely fabulous. My twin and I are like two peas in a pod. I love her deeply. We have spent our entire lives as “the twins.”

Now that I have a boyfriend, and I spend a lot of time with him, it is causing problems with my sister. She says that I am a “different person” when I am around him. My boyfriend says that I am a “different person” when I am around her. I guess that I am kind of on edge when they are both together, because I want so much for them to like each other. I just want to make them both happy, but I don’t know how. Can you give me some advice?

Signed, Torn Twin


Dear Torn Twin,

   You are not going to be able to make them both happy. You cannot control how someone reacts to a situation. You can only control how you react.

   So, relax. Don’t try to improve the relationship between them. That is for them to do. You just continue being a loving sister. Make sure that you still have a reasonable amount of time for the two of you to spend together. Then, go out with your new boyfriend and have fun. If your sister does not like it, that is truly her issue, not yours.

   I have a sneaking suspicion that when she finds herself a guy to date, that she will lighten up. In the meantime, have fun. You are not going to lose her. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.

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