Dear Annie: I am a 25-year-old single mother. I've never been married, and the situation I'm in right now does not make me look forward to walking down the aisle.
I love "Gary" with all of my heart. We have dated for three years, and he eventually wants to marry, but his family is not so welcoming. I was the reason Gary moved out of his mother's home, and I am the reason he does not spend as much time with them as he used to.
Mind you, Annie, I do not stop him from seeing or calling them. I would never do that. His family, however, blames me. They start a lot of arguments. Last week, they lied to him about something I had said in order to make him angry with me. Fortunately, he didn't believe them, but it really upset me that they would stoop to that level.
Gary says he always will put me first, no matter what, but I worry. I want a future with a man whose family welcomes me and treats me as one of their own. I don't see that happening here. How should I handle this? I'm afraid that our life together will be over before it begins. Driven Away
Dear Driven: The potential in-laws sound difficult and unpleasant, but the important thing is Gary's attitude and support. If you believe that he will put you first, you have nothing to worry about. However, it wouldn't hurt to turn on the charm and try to warm up the relatives. Be friendly and let them know how important it is to you that Gary stay close to his family. It will help.
Dear Annie: I recently bought a set of $60 walkie-talkies for my children, and they brought the sets over to their cousins' home to play. Their 9-year-old cousin "Lila" bent over the pool, and the walkie-talkie fell in. The kids immediately fished it out, but it was not waterproof and stopped working.
My brain wants her parents to pay for the replacement. My heart, however, understands that it was an accident, and since we have more money than they do, we should pick up the cost. But I want Lila to understand the consequences of her actions (a value her parents do not impart). Any ideas? Waterlogged in Florida
Dear Florida: Lila's parents should have offered to replace the wrecked unit. Since they have not, you can handle it in several ways. You can pick up the cost and forget about it; you can ask the parents to replace it or pay half; you can ask that Lila make some kind of restitution by helping you shovel snow or wash your car; or you can tell Lila that she will not be able to play with your children's toys until she is a little older and learns to be more careful. Pick one that is comfortable for you.
Dear Annie: In my Christmas newsletter, I didn't write about being unemployed. Instead, I wrote about my son who is an aeronautical engineer working on the International Space Station and how happy we were that so many attended his wedding. I would rather share good news. Thanks for the opportunity to vent. Elk Grove Village, Ill.