Ask Amy: Future mother-in-law casts shadow on marriage

October 24, 2012

DEAR AMY: I am getting married next month, but my future mother-in-law hates me. This is not a traditional “mother-in-law hatred”; it’s the kind of hatred that is a deal-breaker. She doesn’t invite me to family events, and I have never been in her house.

Should I go through with the wedding? I love my fiance, but I don’t know if it is worth dealing with a life of neglect. What happens if we have children? Will she hate them too? -- Mommy-in-Law Issues

DEAR ISSUES: You don’t have many decisions to make, actually, because this woman will hate and neglect you regardless of what you do. Your fiance has the most at stake. He has important and life-changing choices to make.

When people get married, they leave their parents’ orbit and cleave to their spouse. That’s the way it is. If you are lucky enough to have parents with an ample and generous embrace, marriage makes the family grow. If not, the circle tightens. But the marriage needs to be at the center. If grandchildren come into the family, it will be mighty hard for this grandmother to get to know them if she won’t spend time with their mother.

Because this woman has completely rejected you, her son will have to reject her to be married to you. Unless you are both prepared to put your marriage at the center of your lives, you should not tie the knot. Put your plans on hold as you pursue pre-marriage counseling.

DEAR AMY: Whether I watched Disney’s “Pocahontas” too much or because I am a firm believer in “green living” or because I have polytheistic faith, I am a consummate recycler and respecter of the planet. My parents, on the other hand, are not.

Their recycling efforts are minimal: newspapers, magazines, glass bottles. Any other paper gets trashed. Plastics are sometimes recycled but usually not. My parents hate clutter, and to them the recycling and trash in our four-car garage take up too much space, so they simply throw away their paper. I’ve seen my dad do it, and when I call him on it, he says, “No, no, honey, that is the recycling,” or, “Don’t worry, they will sort it out.”

I have proposed having a dual system of placing a trash can next to a recycling can, or keeping the recycling in my part of the basement so that it doesn’t clutter the garage, but that is “too complicated.” I have offered to drive our recyclables to the recycling center, but, again, that is “too complicated” (also, I would have to deal with the carbon footprint of the drive).

Listing statistics and reminding them to recycle doesn’t help; if anything, I come across as being preachy. How can I encourage my parents to recycle more and respect the planet? To me, their behavior is selfish and willfully ignorant. -- Resolute Recycler

DEAR RESOLUTE: You do sound preachy. I can only assume that your “selfish and ignorant” parents have gotten what they have coming, a “green” preacher patrolling their four-car garage. You should offer to take over this process completely and deal with all the trash, garbage, storage, etc., yourself.

If you offer, and your parents refuse, you can point your energy toward the bigger picture outside your parents’ household, organizing recycling efforts in your community.

You should also contemplate the day when you will be on your own. The beauty of running your own household is that you can do it exactly as you please. That’s what your folks are doing.

DEAR AMY: “An American in Switzerland” has in-laws who never close the bathroom door when they’re using it. To insinuate that this is some sort of Swiss custom is ridiculous. I’m Swiss and I assure you, this is gross, no matter where you’re from. -- Swiss in America

DEAR SWISS: This writer wasn’t saying that this was a Swiss custom. But her in-laws’ choice to tease her for her “American prudishness” made their open-door policy her problem.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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