It’s all relative

Joey Garcia

My in-laws invited us to Thanksgiving but refuse to keep their two large dogs in the backyard. Last year, one dog knocked my 3-year-old niece to the ground and bit her. She hit her head hard and required stitches. My in-laws argued that she was teasing the dogs so it was her fault.

My in-laws believe their dogs are well-behaved, but these dogs are constantly underfoot, licking, jumping, barking loudly and often. When they bark, my in-laws yell, which results in more barking. My husband’s brother and his wife have not talked to my in-laws since the incident. My husband wants to see his parents but does not want our children exposed to the dogs. Is there something we can say so his parents understand that their grandchildren are not safe around those dogs?

Yes: “We’re having Thanksgiving at our home this year and would love for you to join us.” If playing chef is overwhelming, you can always order in from a local grocer. However, if your in-laws take their dogs everywhere and would likely bring them to your home, say this: “We’re celebrating Thanksgiving at [name your favorite restaurant here], and would like to know if we can include you in the reservation.” Then add: “We enjoy spending holidays with you but can’t accommodate the dogs in any way until our children are much older.” Your in-laws may respond with indignation. Let them have their drama but don’t join in. Trust that your concern for the safety of your children is more important than giving in to attempts to intimidate you or make you feel guilty about your choice.

If your in-laws refuse these invitations, don’t despair. Send your husband, sweet treat in hand, to their home the day after Thanksgiving. He can enjoy a short visit alone with his parents. If possible, he should mend the fence between his brother and parents. I also think that Santa should bring your in-laws a gift certificate for doggy-training classes. The biggest problem with most badly behaved dogs is negligent, undisciplined owners.

My husband works for a large company and is required to file monthly expense reports. He is always two months behind and refuses the services of his department’s administrative assistant. The company takes two to three months for reimbursement, so we are often out hundreds of dollars and scrambling to cover our family finances. I don’t understand why my husband is so slow to handle a task that is vital to his job and to his family. I am at the end of my patience and angry enough to threaten divorce because of the stress when I am unable to pay other bills or buy enough groceries. I have tried to be nice and not say anything, but I’ve had it. Any suggestions?

Stop bankrupting your relationship by withholding your feelings. Tell your husband the truth about how his actions affect the family finances. By scrambling to cover the problem, you contribute to his procrastination and your frustration. But avoid saying anything that sounds like you are blaming or accusing him of making your life miserable. It’s likely that his behavior is rooted in his own fears about money, loss of control or self-worth. So use “I” statements, like, “I feel scared when we don’t have enough money to cover our bills, then angry when I realize so much of our money is tied up in unpaid expense reports.” Together, brainstorm a way to file on time, like programming an alert into his BlackBerry. You can also agree that if he fails to file by a week before deadline, he must surrender all receipts to the admin person responsible for the task.

Meditation of the week
“Obstacles are those frightful things you can see when you take your eyes off your goal,” said Henry Ford. Are you focused on what is best for the world? Or are you only thinking of yourself?

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