Q: My sister spoils my children by buying them expensive things that we don’t even want them to have for every holiday, on random visits, etc. I’ve told her I don’t want her trying to buy their love. She says this is what good aunts do and nothing is going to stop her.
A: If she thinks that buying stuff – especially stuff that kids’ parents don’t want them to have – is the way to be a good aunt, her mind needs opening. The gift of time together will create far more memories than Colored Plastic Item No. 17.
Maybe her behavior comes from an insecurity (“I have no other qualities they’d be interested in”), laziness (“Kids love stuff, right? Let me just click ‘Place order!’ ”) or even a sense of one-upmanship (“Their Mom won’t get them this – let me show them I’m way cooler”).
Try to meet her where she is, being sensitive to these underlying vulnerabilities and motivations. If a more heartfelt talk doesn’t get through, then find ways to cope. Maybe you can intercept and store the toys in a closet for a later date or frisk her as she walks through the door (only semi-kidding).
Q: How much of a deal-breaker do you think it is when one person in a couple (I won’t say which) is someone who would always rather stay in with a movie or a quiet night and the other would always prefer going out to clubs and parties? The relationship is strong in other ways, but weekends are always a battle.
A: Here’s the funny thing about deal-breakers: If someone thinks something is a deal-breaker, then bam, it is. Like magic! So my idea of a deal-breaker doesn’t matter at all in your relationship.
You’ve got to analyze these “battles” – and see how intractable and significant they are. Would one or both of you be bothered by spending one night a week apart? What are the ways in which you DO connect, and are those strong enough to power you through the times when your social lives might feel a bit disconnected? Where is the middle ground between loud clubs and Netflixing in sweatpants? What might happen down the road, if kids or other commitments make the homebody life more necessary? Keep talking, keep trying, keep compromising – it’s the only way to get your answer.