I got married two months ago, and I have one very big problem. Her parents live near us and constantly call the house and drop by. Her mother called seven times between 9 and 10 a.m. last Saturday. After some thought I finally asked my wife if she felt it was unusual that her folks would be so intrusive, and she responded by saying that my relationship with my parents is the problem, not hers. She stated it's "normal" that her mom and dad are so in our life and said the fact that I speak to my folks once a week is "wrong." I'm beginning to get really weirded out. Any suggestions?
-- Stressville, USA
Once again my advisory hands are tied by the physical impossibility of time travel. (I must protest these working conditions.)
Since getting to know your wife before you married her is an option you no longer have, you'll have to get to know the art of compromise. Intimately.
I'll spray-paint the footsteps on the floor for you. First, you both stop assigning blame. Go back, explain that it's not about intrusions vs. problems, it's about two different family styles. (Stay with me here -- pointing the finger back at her won't help, and I'm sure there's some part of Earth where all seven calls would be healthy.)
Next, express feelings in place of judgments: "I know this is your family's way, but I feel crowded." Next, offer to meet her halfway: "I'm happy to have your parents around more than I would my own, because it makes you happy, but in return I would appreciate some limits."
Next, marriage counseling when, lo and behold, she responds exactly as if she were the product of people who see nothing wrong with calling their newlywed daughter seven times in one weekend-morning hour. Even a master of compromise can't make peace with a rock, and, put bluntly, marriages don't survive a spouse who refuses to budge. Not happily, at least.
I'm 16 and generally considered to be an outgoing kind of guy. Many times in my life I begin relationships with females, platonic ones that end up becoming extremely close. The problem is (and it happens all the time), we end up being so close that when I want to start to move forward in the relationship, the girl almost always would rather remain friends. I really don't think it's bad to be able to communicate and listen to girls in a laid-back fashion; however, it can be frustrating to hear the "just friends" spiel over and over again. How can I get close but still keep the option of becoming serious viable?
-- Graciously Burned
Date women twice your age.
I am so supremely kidding.
But if you aren't just being the unctuous I'm-Here-for-You-When-That-Other-Guy-Dumps-You Guy -- you all know who you are -- and you really are able to form these comfortable, intimate friendships, then you really are ahead of your time. While the dating fire is all new and crackly, differences attract. When daters get tired of trying to make conversation with brooding poets and prefer warmth to third-degree burns, best friends attract. Be yourself and be patient for when that's enough.
Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at washingtonpost.com/liveonline.