DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, "Diana," is a successful interior designer. Her son, "Brent," and I just moved into a new home, and she can't wait to visit. In the past, this has meant days of listening to Diana's endless suggestions about all of the "wonderful things we can do" with "our" new home. Brent is no help when it comes to shutting her off.
I'm anxious about Diana's visit because she ignores my hints that she keep her ideas to herself. Am I being mean-spirited? Her ideas are usually not in keeping with our style or budget.
How should we handle it when she offers a house-warming gift -- like lawn furniture -- and insists on "helping" us pick it out? Diana visits so often that we can't accept something and not use it.
Abby, this has gone on for 13 years. I love her in so many other ways, but this makes me feel like an ungrateful daughter-in-law. Please help. -- ANXIOUS IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ANXIOUS: Since Diana is an interior designer by profession, she could be verbalizing her ideas out of force of habit. Once the ideas start flowing, it can be hard to shut off the tap. Rather than becoming defensive when Diana starts offering suggestions, simply tell her that you will "keep them in mind" or "give them some thought." It's not insulting, nor does it commit you in any way.
If she offers a house-warming gift, remind her that her tastes and yours are not always in sync -- and let her know what YOU have in mind. After all, you will have to live with the results. As a professional, she can respect that -- and with her resources, she can show you things you might never have dreamed were available.