DEAR CAROLYN: My son and his fiancee bought a condo close to us, which then flooded. They moved in with us and repairs have taken longer than anticipated.
His fiancee, “Laura,” is an intense introvert. For that reason, I gave up my exercise, TV and craft room for her to have her “alone” time.
The problem? She feels trapped when she must eat at the table with us. He just informed us tonight. I do the dishes and clean the kitchen to release the tension, but it’s obvious, she would rather eat in the bedroom or not eat. My son is fine with eating with us.
I really don’t want anyone eating in other rooms due to roaches, ants, mice, rats, etc. And I certainly don’t want to make Laura feel “trapped.” I was even told she hated family get-togethers before they moved in. It seems this is an extreme introversion, or maybe I just don’t understand it. Please advise.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: You actually don’t need to understand it.
You don’t even need to accommodate it, technically, since it’s your home.
It would help if you could do both to some degree, of course, but only to demonstrate compassion versus prostrate yourself to the point of resentment.
In this case, just say:
- You’re sorry to hear Laura isn’t comfortable;
- She’s welcome to handle her meals as she wishes, of course;
- And she’s always welcome at your table.
That’s it. Donesies.
It’s not personal so don’t take it personally; it’s not your business so don’t make it so.
The vermin thing would make it your business because it’s your home, sure, but that concern is also a red herring unless Laura is a messy eater and/or leaves crusty dishes around.
So, drop it. Drop it all. Your best chance that she’ll be comfortable with you eventually is for you to be at ease with — and make things easy for — her.
I hope your more outgoing son (right?) understands fully the life he’s committing to — for Laura’s sake especially — and is ready to compensate and compromise to get his own social needs met. Your willingness to listen and be flexible, without butting in, could be a gift to them both.
DEAR CAROLYN: One neighbor, “Julie,” takes indifferent care of her lawn, and it has never bothered us. Another neighbor, “Neil,” is very lawn-conscious and sent Julie an anonymous letter asking her to take better care of her lawn.
Julie now gets professional spraying and mowing. I’m self-conscious that Julie thinks we’re the letter-writers (we live closer to her than Neil does). I don’t want to tell Julie we didn’t write the letter, because then it will be clear we know who did. If we’re extra friendly to Julie it may look like we’re trying to make up for doing something so aggressive. Is there any way to signal to her that we don’t care if her lawn is a little long and scraggly?
Walk on My Lawn, I Don’t Care
DEAR WALK ON MY LAWN: Treat Julie as you always have, and stay out of it except to tell Neil, on behalf of all who have ever received one, that anonymous notes are a chickencrap way to speak his mind. Julie pays in paranoia for his lack of spine? He’s OK with that? So not cool.
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