DEAR AMY: My family has taken a number of vacations together. These trips typically consist of my parents, me and my husband and my two younger brothers (one of whom is married with two kids).
My husband and I both work full time, after having put ourselves through college and graduate school. One of my brothers graduated college but then developed a substance abuse problem. He’s been clean for about three years but is incapable of holding down full-time employment. My parents pay for his apartment and living expenses. In exchange he does odd jobs around some investment properties my parents own.
My other brother enlisted in the Navy and has worked hard. His wife stays at home to take care of their boys.
Due to different life choices and spending habits, my husband and I have far more discretionary income than my brothers. Every time my parents plan a trip, they pay for my brothers’ expenses but not ours.
Part of me feels like my parents worked hard for their money, and they should be able to spend it however they please. The other part of me feels like my husband and I are being taken advantage of.
How do I address the unfairness of the situation without making demands or ultimatums? I’m afraid I’ll come off as a spoiled brat if I say something like, “We’re not coming this time unless you pay for us, too, or stop paying for them.” But what are our other options? -- Not Fair
DEAR NOT FAIR: Your other option is to say to your parents, “You are so generous; are you saving enough to take care of yourselves? I worry about you.” Wanting your parents to kick in for your vacation is one thing. Insisting that they either pay for you or stop paying for your siblings is quite another. Don’t go there.
Would you trade places with either of your brothers? Do you envy them their riches and their easy lives? If not, then congratulate yourselves on earning your own way in life.
If you don’t like the financial imbalance, then inform your parents of this. But understand that you are not being penalized for being successful; you are being respected.
DEAR AMY: After 13 years of marriage, our daughter and son-in-law have decided to get a divorce.
Despite all, we are very proud of them because they are good parents to our two grandchildren. We actively engage our son-in-law and intend to stay a part of his life, even though he has moved out. Being a child of a divorce herself, our daughter understands why this is important.
My husband and I are at a loss about what to do with all the family photos on display in our home. We want our grandchildren to know that we still love their father and he is an important part of their lives. At the same time, we want to respect and support our daughter. Do you have any advice on how to sensitively handle this? -- Stepmother in Idaho
DEAR STEPMOTHER: You should edit your collection — put wedding photos in an album for the kids to look at — and keep some recent family photos of both parents with their children on display.
You sound very thoughtful and careful. Maybe the only advantage of the experience of divorce is the sincere desire to make it easier on children going through it.
DEAR AMY: I could not disagree more with “Wiser,” who assures us that no man will propose to a woman he has lived with for four years. This isn’t about “cows” or “getting the milk for free”; it’s about commitment. I had to beg my live-in girlfriend of 2 1 / 2 years to marry me.
With divorce rates being what they are, I needed to be sure, and once I was I started to press her for her hand. There are a thousand stories like ours out there. -- NC Nice Guy
DEAR NC: I read a recent study saying that living together is not a predictor of marriage, one way or the other. But you are right; there are a thousand happy stories like yours, and I have heard several hundred of them. Thank you all.