Dear Carolyn: My husband's sister is only a little older than we are (we're all in our 30s), but she's been married and a parent for much longer so there's this unbreakable dynamic of big sister/little brother and sister-in-law. Before we had our baby, it was always, "You'll understand when you have kids!" Then we had the baby and I started trying to relate to her as a fellow mom, and her tune has changed to "just wait till you have multiple kids!"
I don't really want a "big sister" — I want a peer. She has endless suggestions for me when I need help, but she doesn't seem to place any value in my input, even if it's about something non-kid-related. It stings a bit. Do I have to just accept that she's used to treating her younger brother as subordinate, and me, too, by extension? I wish I could push her out of that comfort zone.
— Little Sister-In-Law
Little Sister-In-Law: “You were a new parent once yourself, so I’m sure you get it: Sometimes I don’t want suggestions, but to be treated as a peer. It’s a real source of frustration for me.”
If you can say this to her in response to someone else’s patronizing suggestion that she just happens to witness, vs. her patronizing suggestion, then that would be a situational jackpot and you should immediately go out and buy yourself a scratch-off.
However, since that’s unlikely, speak up. Kindly, appealing to her as a font of all understanding and knowledge. Ahem.
Re: Little: The "unbreakable dynamic of big sister/little brother": This. Forever. Learn to embrace it.
Dear Carolyn: I've been with my boyfriend for over two years, and we've started talking about getting engaged. The only issue is that I know he'll use a family ring as the engagement ring, which I think is great, but . . . I have no idea what this ring looks like. Is there a way to ask if I could see it without sounding like an awful person? And what if I don't like it?
— Getting Engaged
Getting Engaged: The only issue I see is seeing this as an issue.
Full disclosure, I think engagement rings as an institution have outlived their purpose. I mean, think about it. What are you getting him?
Plus, if you’re a good match and if you’re mature enough to be together, then you’ll be able to navigate this in a way that feels honest to you — be it to love the ring for what it means without regard for how it looks, or to be honest about the fact that you don’t love the ring.
It’s the great fake-out of life partnership, really — that any of this stuff actually matters. The only thing that matters is your comfort with each other. Only.
So, ah, congrats!
Re: Ring: Totally agree that the "institution" has outlived its usefulness. And don't get me started on the engagement photo shoot, where the bride-to-be places her hand prominently on her fiance's chest, so that the bling is the real focus of the shot. It's the thought that counts, though. Since the girlfriend knows he'll use a family ring, can she ask about it? Maybe it's fabulous!
Started: Can’t see why not, thanks.