Dear Carolyn:

My mother-in-law passed away suddenly this year. After the funeral, a drunk, grieving family member (who probably doesn't remember the conversation) let me know that my MIL never liked me. Looking back, it makes a lot of sense -- she was far from the nightmare MIL some people have, but she wasn't ever very nice or welcoming.

So, I have found myself secretly relieved that I don't have to deal with her anymore, while I'm dreading helping my husband and the rest of the family get through his first holiday season without his mom. How do you come to peace with not liking someone who is much loved and no longer living?


Well, you're already most of the way there on your own: You have the maturity to keep your hurtful feelings private.

Which might be a trait your husband found attractive because it reminded him of his mom. She managed to dislike you to the end of her days without your ever being the wiser. She wasn't "very nice or welcoming," yes, but that seems natural, given her dislike -- and not necessarily wrong. Had she been cuddly, she would also have been a hypocrite. Instead she was, apparently, civil and discreet enough for you not to notice that you were the reason she needed to make an effort to remain civil and discreet.

Which brings us to the point of this massive rationalization: that you can begin to find peace by finding some good in her. "You disliked me but I can respect how you handled it." Seriously. Try.

Once you've got the reconciliation out of the way, even a grudging one, you'll be more willing to see in her what the people who loved her all saw. And, even better, to see how she produced a person you love. And that's how you get through to '06.

Dear Carolyn:

I really didn't plan to have sex on the first date; things seemed so perfect that the normal limiter in my brain seemed to be turned off. What do you think the chances are that a healthy relationship develops -- 0 percent? Twenty percent? Should I just say I didn't mean it to happen and start over? And by the way, it was the best first date ever.

College Town


I don't do handicapping, but I can tell you that of the people whose limiting mechanism breaks on a first date, the percentage using the line "I didn't mean it to happen" is 100. Give or take.

But you can try.

I think you'd have a better chance of a happy outcome, though, if you didn't try to put a virtuous spin on things. Or dirty or hopeful or any kind of spin at all. You had sex. Okay. It could be the end, or the beginning of something, or anything in between.

And: This was a great first date. Period. It means you are exactly one day closer to however long it takes to know this person well -- and s/he you. One great day, fine, but one day, nevertheless. Be brave, be realistic, be open-minded, be careful not to force a relationship (or dodge one) in an attempt to erase any shame. And wipe that grin off your face.

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