DEAR HARRIETTE: I fear my mother is losing her sense of self in her marriage. She remarried about a year ago, and I am really surprised by how much she has changed. Everything that used to excite her is gone now, replaced with my stepfather’s hobbies. She doesn't do any of her old hobbies, and I want to know what is going on with her.
I don't want to have her think I'm persuading her into divorce, but I want her to retain some individuality in this union. How do I get through to her? -- True to Yourself, Poughkeepsie, New York
DEAR TRUE TO YOURSELF: There should be a huge space between asking your mother about re-engaging old hobbies and walking down the path toward divorce. Since you brought it up, it seems you are the one to have to come to terms with your objectives in speaking to your mother. Be sure that your intentions are clear. If your goal is to check to be sure that your mother is happy, stay in that lane. If you secretly resent your stepfather, tread lightly. This is your mother’s life.
That said, talk to your mother. Ask her how she’s doing. Inquire about one or two of her favorite hobbies and if she continues to pursue them. Learn about her new life with her husband and what she enjoys about it. If you listen carefully, you will get a sense of whether she enjoys being immersed in her husband’s world. If she likes it, great. If she seems to have gone overboard right now, have patience. She may find a middle ground in time.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My father is so embarrassingly cheap, I don't want to be with him in a restaurant. I have seen him dissect every part of a bill and attempt to get a quarter off the check because he asked for no pickles. He is fairly wealthy, but he believes that he must be frugal to preserve his wealth. Is there any way to show him how embarrassing his behavior is? I've seen him order hot coffee with a cup of ice cubes because iced coffee was slightly more expensive. -- Save and Spend, Shreveport, Louisiana
DEAR SAVE AND SPEND: Your father may be living at the extreme of his thinking, but it is true that the person who saves money has money. Try a unique approach. When you are not in a compromising situation, like paying a bill at a restaurant, talk to your father about money. Ask him to teach you how he built his wealth. Listen to him tell you about his financial pursuits. Do your best to get his ear by being a good student.
Over time, change the conversation a bit. Ask him to tell you why he argues about bills all the time, and other such things. Tell him that you respect his desire to be respectful of money, but you fear that in his frugality, he is being rude to others. Give him examples of behaviors that make you uncomfortable. Ask him if there is a way that he can teach you to be mindful of money without being unkind or cheap with others. This may create space for an eye-opener for him.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)