DEAR MARY ANN: I love my husband dearly, but do I need to spend the holidays with his miserable family? During my husband's family celebrations, the festivities mainly include talking poorly about others, commenting on people's weight, complaining about the food, gossiping and constant eye rolling. No one is enjoying each other's company. The tension in the room is almost unbearable.
My husband asks me to tolerate his family's insanity as we get together only a few times a year. I'm at my wits end. Seeing as we are older adults, have a great marriage and no children, is it so bad if he attends his family gatherings and I go to my family for the holidays?
-- HOLIDAY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
DEAR HOLIDAY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: Families are complex. When your husband acknowledges his clan's instability and asks you to accompany him to his family's holiday events, he is doing so because you are his anchor and his rock. He needs you to be with him. A few times a year isn't like a command performance at Sunday dinner. Bring a game or offer to be kitchen crew and do the cleanup work. If you knit, bring your knitting. Avoid the fray, drama and gossip. You are there to support your husband. Ideally, as married adults you should attend major family functions on either side of the family as a couple. Save the solo visits to your family for other spontaneous and casual occasions.
DEAR MARY ANN: I have a very old and dear friend John, who recently got a new job with a well-known insurance company as a financial adviser after having been laid off from his former career of 30 years. John seems happy in his new role, and I am very pleased for him and his wife and two college-bound children.
Part of his job description involves solicitation, I understand that. He is expected to come up with a quota of new clients and then he advises them and recommends strategies that often include purchasing some of the products the famous insurance company has to offer. So, I was not surprised last week when John asked me to go to lunch at a very upscale bistro to discuss my financial future. I said, "Yes," but now I am experiencing some anxiety as our rendezvous date approaches. Something is bothering me here, and I cannot really decide what I should do. On one hand I could probably use some of his advice as he is newly trained and probably up on a few things that I may not have considered regarding my money. On the other hand his loyalties are not only to me but to his new job, his family and the company he works for. Should I put him off, level or something in between?
-- POTENTIAL FOOL AND HER MONEY
DEAR POTENTIAL FOOL: Have lunch with your old friend but decide in advance that you will not make any unplanned economic commitments. When John turns the conversation to your money management, tell him you are not comfortable making financial decisions without more research. He may actually be thinking of you as a reference for some of his future clients. John is networking.
The fact that you are feeling apprehensive about your meeting, however, indicates you think you may not be resilient enough to resist making a hasty money decision. After such a long friendship, you may not want to hurt John's feelings by declining what he proposes at this meeting. If you feel you will not be able to say "No" to this possible agenda, you should cancel the fancy lunch and eat at home. When making a decision about your financial future always get more than one opinion.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.