Q. Uninvited Family: Some of my wife's family have invited themselves for Thanksgiving dinner. While they aren't entirely unwelcome and we would have said yes if they had asked, I'm finding myself bent out of shape because a) we didn't invite them and/or b) they announced they were coming instead of asking in the first place. How do I let these guests know that I am glad they are coming to my table but I'm still mad at them?
A: That sounds like a fun holiday! Before you carve the turkey you can say, "I want to make note of all the blessings we are grateful for this year. Chief among them is being joined by family members who we never would have invited." If you are being the host, your primary obligation is to be gracious, so get some extra cans of cranberry sauce and can the idea of telling your guests how mad you are. For the future your family needs to clarify well in advance who's going where at holiday time, so the only things that get bent out of shape are people's belts after the meal.
Q. Grandma’s Cabin: After my mother passed, we purchased her cabin. Now my brothers and nephews and nieces see it as "Grandma's cabin" that Tom and I pay for. They have asked to visit, or just told me outright that they and their friends are coming up such and such a weekend. I actually told my niece of course she and her husband could come up until she asked me the capacity of the cabin, at which time I told her, “But I live here, Nikke, and I'm not leaving.” She left me a nasty voice mail about how selfish I was. I live there six months out of the year. I am not willing to pay 12 months a year for a cabin that I can use six months and give up weekends for my brothers and kin to enjoy while I pay the mortgage. While I cordially invited them and their friends to join me, they still insist on requesting individual weekends by themselves. I agreed to allow my brother and his friends for their annual "fishing opener." My CD player, binoculars, and other items went missing, to which my brother responded, "I was just taking mementoes of Mom." My husband’s chain saw simply isn't something I remember mom by. What can I do?
A: Maybe next time they inform you of the dates of their visit, you can say that means you'll have to hurry with the improvements you're making to the cabin—you're installing a security and video system because you've had an unfortunate series of thefts from the property. To them this may be Mom's cabin, but you have mortgage papers showing it's yours. This is a fact that needs to be impressed upon your family, so you need to state it in clear terms, such as, "We love to see you, and I know the cabin will always feel like home to all of us, but Tom and I purchased it to use as our residence. That means it's our home and I'm afraid we aren't going to clear out when people would like to use it for a weekend. As owners of the cabin, we would like to continue to have it be a place the family gathers from time to time, but that has to be at our convenience. One more thing, the items in the cabin are ours. Unfortunately, we've lost some valuable things recently when guests have misunderstood their ownership. There are no more mementos here, there are simply our belongings." Who knows, this may so offend your family that they decide to boycott you. That's what you would call win/win.
Q. Omaha, Neb.: A few years ago, I confided in my best friend that I was having an affair with a married man (which continues to this day). I swore her to secrecy, and only a few other friends know. A few weeks ago, I found out that the secret had gotten out to a wider audience. My best friend is the most likely candidate, given the people who found out, but she swears up and down that she didn't say a word. I have asked repeated times, and now she won't speak to me at all. She says she's angry that I called her at work about it a couple of times and that I keep calling and emailing about the matter. But I'm angry, and I think I have a right to know how this information got out. What do I do now?
A: You could use this as an opportunity to assess why you are throwing away your chance to have an above board romance with a man who is single. You could also use this as a lesson in recognizing that when you just have to blab your exciting news to a select handful of people that you're having an affair with a married man, you don't control that news anymore. You could also consider why, instead of engaging in some self-reflection, you decided to harass your best friend, who perhaps is glad you behaved so badly because surely she must be sick of being your confidante about your other bad behavior.
Q. Cabin: I'd change the locks, pronto, if they have keys.
A: Good advice. Pronto, indeed!
Q. Pregnancy Announcement at a Wedding?: Next weekend, my group of friends from high school will be getting together for what appears to be the last wedding for a while from the group. I see this group of nine girls infrequently (as I live in a different part in the country), but we're rarely all together anymore as people have moved and married away from our hometown. I recently found out that I'm pregnant and would like to tell my close girlfriends in person. Unfortunately, the only time in the conceivable future that we'll all be together is at this wedding. I don't want to take any of the attention from the bride but would like to tell my friends in person. Is it rude to tell people at the reception that my husband and I are expecting?
A: Is your friend the kind of bride who has sent people the color options for their clothing so that no one clashes in her photos? Did she include a request for money in the invitations? If so, then she may be the kind of bride who will feel conversation during Her Day should be confined to how beautiful she is and how perfect the wedding is. If, however, she is a normal person, she will expect that when friends get together they will talk about what's going on in their lives, and be excited herself to learn your great news. Go ahead and tell. If the bride is miffed, she's not much of a friend.
Q. Difficulty Dealing With Ex-Spouse but Co-Parent: I have two (elementary age) children with my soon-to-be ex-husband. He has visitation for three hours on Wednesdays and every other weekend. For the last few weeks, the kids have told him they don't want to go with him. I don't think there's anything wrong or they feel unsafe. I believe that with a busy extracurricular schedule, they just want some downtime in their own house. Plus, the fact is they are just closer to me than to him. When they say they don't want to go, his response is, "Yes, you do" or some other inane, conflict-avoiding response. He won't say, "You have to get in the car" or some such, and he often looks to me to convince them to go. I've stayed out of it. I don't tell the children to get in the car, I also don't encourage them to do these antics. I tell them that they have to discuss and resolve it with him. My family is telling me that I need to do more to help my ex with the kids, but I feel like if his time with them is important, he needs to figure it out. Should I be doing more to push the kids to go?