Where’s The Ring?

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Send your questions to deardebra@renmedia.us

Dear Debra,
My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years. Whenever I bring up getting married, he shifts the conversation to another topic. Or says he’s not ready. He is a wonderful man. He is kind, patient, has a good job and is loving to my daughter (her father is not in the picture.) But I want to take this to the next step and have the commitment that marriage brings. How do I get him to see this my way?
— No Ring

Dear No Ring,
By “shifting the conversation to another topic” or saying he’s “not ready” every time you bring up getting married, your boyfriend is telling you, indirectly and directly, that he doesn’t share your vision of a committed future together. How can you get him to see this your way? You can’t.

While you did not say how old your daughter is, you might also consider what she is learning about relationships, love and commitment. Her father is not a part of her life. Your boyfriend is “loving to her” but not loving enough to make her mother a top priority in his life. Is this the example you want to set for her? What would you say to her years hence were she in a similar relationship?

The ball is in your court — you can stay with the status quo or you can leave. If marriage is what you want, and I remain strongly in favor of loving and committed marriages, then he is not your guy. The time has come to leave the relationship, devote yourself to your daughter and create a stable life for the two of you. When and if you begin dating again, make it clear that marriage is your goal. Should potential love interests “shift the conversation,” you’ll know where you stand and can walk in the other direction.

Dear Debra,
I have several friends who commit each year to raise funds for their causes. I admire their dedication to train for these walks and want to lend my support, but I have grown weary of being asked each year for donations. I realize they are doing this in memory of a dear one or to fund further research to eradicate the disease they are championing. I would prefer to support causes and research that are meaningful to me. If I refuse to donate, I will feel guilty for not being a good friend.
— Donate or Not

Dear DONATE OR NOT,
Might you find a middle road? Perhaps donate a smaller amount than you have in the past so that you can still feel you are supporting your friends while leaving you the freedom to contribute meaningfully to your own causes. If you can’t tame the guilts and your budget allows it, continue to donate as you have in the past, with a grateful heart that you have the means to do so and with a prayer for continued good health for your loved ones and theirs.

Dear Debra,
I have a situation that others might envy, but trust me, it is not to be envied. My mother-in-law is too helpful. As I have to leave early for work, she comes over to get the kids ready for school. She then waves my husband off to work saying she will leave after she “straightens up.” Straightening up means rearranging our furniture, doing our laundry her way and putting things away so that we cannot find them.

We have asked her not to do this. I have hidden the bleach she buys because she has ruined some of our clothes but she just buys more. We have even gone a year without allowing her to visit because her “help” creates mess and tension. She has apologized and said she won’t do it anymore, but then she goes right back to rearranging our furniture and washing and bleaching our clothes.

She means well but her help is driving us over the edge. We don’t want to banish her again but she is not leaving us much choice.
—Too Much Help

Dear Too Much Help,
How about I see your kids off to school and M-I-L comes to my house and cleans out 33 years of stuff in our basement? I’d even suffer a few bleaching incidents. Barring that, here are a few ideas:

  1. Change the locks on your doors and hire a sitter to get the kids off to school.
  2. Discuss with your husband and your husband’s employers the possibility of flex time so that one of you can get the kids out the door. Again, change the locks on your doors.
  3. Schedule a few sessions with a therapist so that you, your husband and his mother can discuss this in a neutral setting with a skilled professional who can tease out any underlying issues. It sounds as if your mother-in-law might be in the grip of an obsessive need to help. If you can step back a bit, you might see things in this light. She obviously wants to help and loves you all very much. It is sad and unfortunate that instead she is driving away the very people she cares for and who do, I trust, love her in return.
  4. You didn’t mention if your father-in-law is still alive but if so, have you tried to get him on board?
  5. Set aside one day a month for a family cleaning day. Invite Mom over to help with some particularly onerous tasks. Direct her energies while holding tight to the reins.

And, if all those fail, my basement and I will be still be waiting.

DEBRA DARVICK
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