Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't get in a tug-of-war with husband over 'stuff'
St. Paul, Minn.: My husband and I have been married for five years. I really don't like keeping nonutilitarian stuff around or things we don't really use, even though we don't have too much "stuff" between us. I think we can always do with less, which brings me to my current problem.
My husband is pretty upset that I'm trying to donate my wedding gown and sell some camping gear.
I've tried reminding him that I always intended to donate my gown, and he's never once used the camping gear I bought him. I'd love to camp with him but have given up on coaxing him outdoors or believing he'll go someday.
How can I make this purge easier for him when I'm set on getting rid of this stuff?
Carolyn: Keep it. Hanging on to two things that mean a lot to him isn't going to undermine in any serious way your commitment to streamlining.
Seriously — is it really worth upsetting him over two things?
If it becomes a tug-of-war over every months-old magazine, or if he makes liberal use of the "sentimental value" tag, then you have grounds to make it into a bigger issue of principle.
Short of that, though, you have a guy with a couple of sentimental attachments — both about you, even — and you're digging in to get your way regardless. Some of it's even his!
Back off and give him one sacred place for his stuff.
It's up to relative who's insulted to respond as she sees fit
Anonymous: A close relative, "Jane," has gained a lot of weight recently. She had always had a nice figure. I have always been overweight, and Jane has always been loving and supportive of me.
At a family gathering a few months ago, an elderly female relative made some rude remarks to Jane about her weight gain, and even grabbed her. Jane was understandably upset.
We are due to attend a family reunion soon, and Jane and I both have expressed our hope that this same relative will keep her comments and her hands to herself. Would it be wrong for me to call this woman and ask her not to do this again? She is rather old, but not senile. She's never had a weight problem, and, like too many people, she thinks fat people need to be told they are fat (as if they didn't already know).
I don't want to open up a can of worms. I'd just like to enjoy the family reunion without wondering what she might do or say to hurt Jane's feelings.
Carolyn: I appreciate your concern and compassion for Jane, but if Jane is an adult in good emotional health, then it's really up to Jane to handle any nasty old bats.
In fact, I'm more concerned about how invested you are in Jane's feelings than I am about Jane's feelings. Would worrying about Jane really affect your ability to enjoy your reunion? A pre-emptive call feels to me like having someone else's feelings for them.
What would be appropriate is expressing your outrage to the relative if (and only if) she bothers Jane again.