Q: We are a family with one toddler and one child on the way. Our relationship with my in-laws was fraught with tension even before our marriage, but got really bad after our first child was born. We have not seen or spoken to them together for more than a year. They tried to establish a relationship first with just my husband and child, and, when my husband denied them, they tried via letter to request just a relationship with my husband.
He has told them consistently that we are a package deal, but has also kept the lines of communication open just in case. After our falling-out about a year ago, they told my husband they would no longer acknowledge me, but they have changed their minds. How should I proceed? Is this a healthy attempt on their part to repair the relationship, or is this a dysfunctional attempt to put a wedge between my husband and me? How can I ever trust them again?
A: You don't have to trust them. The one you need to trust is your husband, to be as judicious as possible in navigating this mess.
It's possible that: (1) your in-laws are controlling/needy and you're the victim; (2) you're controlling/needy and they're the victims; (3) both parties are controlling/needy and your husband simply staggered unwittingly from the clutches of one into the clutches of the other; (4) you're all decent, well-meaning people who have no idea how to handle conflict.
Since I don't know any of you, I, too, have to trust your husband's judgment. He's apparently showing strength and consistency, which are crucial — when employed in defense of the high ground. Otherwise they're wrongheaded at best.
Which brings us to you. You need to trust your husband, but that doesn't resign you to a passive role. You can actively improve his judgment by making his decision easy, and behaving in a manner worth his allegiance. Unless and until your in-laws' threat to your family is manifest, you make room for them in your lives, with all requisite (and mutually agreed upon) limits in place.
The best thing to do right now? Nothing
Q: I've fallen for someone I work with, and I don't know what to do about it. My brain is telling me it's a bad idea for all the usual reasons you shouldn't date a co-worker (although my brain also knows it's not against the rules, and we don't work together directly). My gut is simultaneously telling me to forget about it (I'm skittish about relationships anyway) and saying go for it (why not? and I think the feelings are mutual). How can I tell if I'm chickening out or just being sane and practical?
A: Don't do anything. Overthink with pride and purpose. Purpose because not knowing what to do usually means you don't have enough information, or you don't trust the information you have. If your feelings remain strong, you'll trust them more. Knowing what you want is the first step in assessing potential consequences accurately. So, wait for that. If instead the feelings pass, then every workday will bring new waves of relief at your sane practicality. (That's where the pride comes in.)
Write "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or