Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Wife Angry About Checks Sent to Mother-in-Law

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been giving my mother money for my whole life. I send her small checks each month. I learned to do this from my dad when I was a teenager. He taught me that it was our responsibility as her children to take care of our mother, just as she had taken care of us when we were growing up. I haven’t discussed this with anyone. It has just been my practice.

Recently, my wife noticed my checkbook and the money I send to my mother, and she questioned me about it. She pointed out that we are a bit strapped for cash, and she didn’t understand why I was giving money to anybody else -- even my mother -- given our current financial situation. Can you help me explain this to her? It is obvious to me that this practice is not optional. She feels differently and is mad at me. -- Family Priorities, Denver

DEAR FAMILY PRIORITIES: Tell your wife what your father taught you about caring for your mother from your early childhood. Explain that it is fundamental to your core that you would include your mother in your monthly financial commitments. Apologize for not telling her before. Point out that it is such an integral part of who you are, it did not occur to you.

Acknowledge the financial challenges that your family is having, and commit to doing your best to ease the burden on everyone. But stand your ground and make it known that you will not stop supporting your mother. You may need to lower the dollar figure for a period of time if you really cannot afford it.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Money | Marriage & Divorce | Etiquette & Ethics

Reader Ready to Lose Negative Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend I have been spending a lot of time with, but I’m getting tired of her. She constantly complains and talks about people. I’m not exaggerating. We will start talking about something, and within a few minutes she will change the subject and mention someone she has a beef with. It’s amazing now that I am noticing it. I guess I wasn’t paying close attention before.

Now that I see what she does, I don’t want to keep talking to her. I have asked her to stop, by the way. I let her know that this is her pattern. She brushed it off, said I was wrong and then fell back into it. Would I be wrong to phase her out of my life? I can’t take it anymore. -- Walk Away, Philadelphia

DEAR WALK AWAY: This is the perfect time of year for evaluating friendships and deciding how to move forward. You have every right to edit your friend relationships if they are no longer serving you. But be kind about it. I always say that endings are more important than beginnings. At the start of any type of relationship, people typically put their best foot forward. In the end, they usually are just ready to walk. To walk with grace and dignity requires that you treat the person you are leaving with respect. Be kind and firm. You can decide consciously to stop engaging her but still offer good wishes. You may have to say you have some things you are working on in the new year that will be filling your time so you won’t be able to spend time together like you have. Close the door without slamming it by being thoughtful and firm.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics