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Q. My wife and her family members believe in buying lottery tickets. She says it’s just fun but I hate this habit, and I think it just throws money into the trash. She grew up this way and although she is mostly a responsible spender in other ways, every week when numbers are picked I find myself getting angry that some of our money has gone to that. It’s been years of this and I haven’t gotten any less resentful.
There’s a larger question here. As a married couple, have you ever worked out how much money you’re each allowed to spend on “fun” without the other one’s approval? It doesn’t sound like she’s counting on some Retire-by-Lotto investment strategy, and I’d guess — since she’s fiscally responsible generally — that this could reasonably live within your entertainment budget. Can you not reframe this as money spent for her enjoyment? People regularly lay down cash on things their spouses could reasonably argue are throwing it into the trash — manicures, sports tickets, car washes, smartphone upgrades, triple half-sweet nonfat Caramel Macchiatos — but the key is compromise and respect. Of course compulsive gambling is a serious issue, but you don’t say her habit’s gotten worse, so this sounds different. For what I’m guessing is only a few dollars a week, it seems like the only bad investment here is your mental energy in fighting it.
Is this the part where we part?
Q. I’ve got a friendship sort of on life support. This person was wonderful to me when I was going through a rough patch, even let me sleep on her couch for three weeks after a bad breakup. I owe her a lot. But for the past year or so she has changed. She’s gotten very judgmental and negative, quick to anger and jealousy. She spends a lot of time on social media and things I consider frivolous about shopping and makeup. For the past few months I go back and forth between feeling like we have nothing to talk about versus being annoyed by something she’s said and wanting to confront it but not knowing how. Maybe this friendship has run its course? It’s hard to know.
Well, I’d advise you to have The Awkward Conversation. No, you don’t have to do a wholesale condemnation of her very being, but you can think about the things she’s said that have upset you the most, and bring up that pattern to her in a respectful way, with an extra helping of “I” statements. It’s possible that her increased negativity is indicative of depression or anxiety, so a good friendship is owed at least an attempt to bring up how things are going off track. You could use an in-the-moment approach, too: “You know, it kind of bothers me that you said that. I get pretty hurt when I hear those types of judgments and it doesn’t seem like the Sarah I know. Are things OK?” How receptive she is will tell you whether the plug should be pulled.