Amy Dickinson

Ask Amy: Monster-in-law insists on baby name

Because of a publishing error, we had an incorrect (old) letter in the Amy column earlier today. The correct

column appears below.

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson offers straightforward advice on relationships, family and life in her syndicated column, Ask Amy. Syndicated advice columns are run in their entirety on; versions published in the newspaper might differ due to space constraints.


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Dear Amy:

I cannot deal with my monster-in-law. She’s bossy, antagonistic, and gossips about my personal business far too much. As much as I try to care about her, my dislike for her has been surfacing more and more.

I went on antidepressants as I was planning our wedding and almost called off the wedding twice, partly because of her.

Now, blessedly, I am pregnant, and the only thing I hear from her is how we must name our son (if it’s a boy) the family name “Bernie” (he would be the fourth one). Neither my husband nor I want to use this name. But she is adamant that we must, and says that if we do not, then she will still call him “Skipper” — the nickname the family uses for all of the other Bernies in the family. No matter how much I ask her not to, she still insists on it. Not only do I hate that name, but I am beginning to hate her for suggesting it.

I don’t know what to do, and the more I get upset, the more my husband and I argue. Although he agrees with me, he will not put his foot down because he hates confrontation.

Please give me some advice!


Every time your mother-in-law successfully riles you, she ignites a little spark in you. Then you oxygenate the spark by reacting — or fighting with your husband about it — and before you know it you’re in flames (and you’ve made her day).

Rather than allow her to create discord in your marriage, you should focus on removing her access to combustible material.

If discussing your baby’s name always leads you down the same path, then stop discussing it. You just say, “Well, we haven’t decided on a name; but we know what your preference is.” If she wants to call your baby “Skipper,” you can say, “You can call the baby anything you want to, though it might be awkward if that isn’t her name.”

But you also need to be aware that this behavior might get worse after the baby is born. Given that, the person who prescribed antidepressants to you should also refer you to counseling. I suggest you and your husband seriously discuss strategies for drawing and enforcing boundaries.

Dear Amy: I just got out of a serious relationship.

I’ve realized how I practically changed myself during our relationship. I over-compromised. I mostly let us do things her way. Then after we broke up, she moved away. She’s seeing someone new, but she and I are on good terms.

Now I notice that she has changed. She’s become more reasonable and more patient. She learned her lesson from our relationship and so have I.

I still have strong feelings for her, and I truly believe that we can make it work this time. However, I don’t know if I should chase someone who’s no longer in love with me and has moved on.

I really want her back. What should I do? — Conflicted

Dear Conflicted:

You should not chase someone who is no longer in love with you. This could be yet more evidence that you are willing to turn yourself inside out to appeal to her.

You could, however, honestly express your feelings and see where it takes you.

Dear Amy: “Concertgoer” was a 16-year-old whose mother wouldn’t let her go to a concert without an adult.

About 20 years ago, my oldest daughter of 16 won two tickets to The Extreme Games many states away. Her mother and I said the only way we’d let her go was if one of us went, too. She and I went for three days and had a wonderful time. It’s one of the best memories I have of us spending time together, and I believe she would agree.

— Proud Dad

Dear Proud: Some readers didn’t like my idea of a “mom date,” but I agree with you — these “forced” experiences can yield great memories for everyone.

Write to Amy Dickinson at 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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