Q: A few months ago, I was at a good friend’s house when my son broke a small crystal clock. He was very apologetic, and I offered to pay for it on the spot. She insisted it was a wedding gift she had never loved, that accidents happen, etc. My husband and her husband have since gotten together and the husband twice brought up my son wrecking a family heirloom, only somewhat jokingly. I don’t know how to handle this.
A: Why not take her to coffee and say, “Look, I know you said it was OK about the clock, but it’s been nagging at me. I’d like to pay for it. It would help me feel settled about the whole thing.” No need to mention that the source of the nagging feeling is her hubby.
If she still insists that it’s fine, then you can either choose to take her at her word or mention that her husband has brought it up. We don’t know the real truth here: whether it bothers them both more than they’re letting on, whether it bothers just him or whether his sense of humor is a little skewed and he hasn’t thought about it since. Regardless, at least you’ll know that you tried your best.
Q: My grown son and his partner come to visit us every month or two. These visits used to be quite pleasant, but now my son seems scattered and distracted whenever we talk. I’m worried that something is going on with him, but he’s not returning my phone calls or emails. I plan on bringing it up at their next visit – whether his partner hears it or not – but my husband thinks that’s a bad idea.
A: You don’t know whether it’s a few coincidental bad moods or something more serious. But it’s a conversation that deserves privacy.
Best case scenario, you squeeze in an inquisition while you’re loading the dishwasher – and what’s the point? He might be rushed or defensive, and if there are problems with his partner he won’t want to discuss them then anyway. Give it another visit. Be warm and let him know that you love seeing him. And then call again. Not enough to make him block your number, but enough to let him know that you’re thinking of him. Frame your inquiries as an observation – he hasn’t seemed like himself – and that you want to be available to him in whatever way he needs.