DEAR HARRIETTE: Last year, my husband and I traveled across the country to visit our son and his family. Unfortunately, the visit was not a friendly one. My daughter-in-law made herself unavailable. She wasn’t rude, but she made sure she was never at home when we were there. She didn’t join us for dinners or activities. My son always made excuses.
Finally, my son told me that I had hurt her feelings. He explained that the first night we were there, I made a comment about how much weight I had gained. My daughter-in-law got mad because she assumed that I was actually talking about her. Honestly, I wasn't -- I have always had a weight problem, so I would never comment on someone else’s weight.
We have been invited to visit again and have bought the plane tickets. I am dreading it. What if I say something else that upsets her? I tend to go out of my way to greet her when speaking with my son, but visiting for a whole week is a long time to be neglected. She always seems to be on non-speaking terms with someone in her life -- family or neighbors. She is sensitive. How should I handle this? -- Lost Communication, Los Angeles
DEAR LOST COMMUNICATION: You may want to take on the role of elder in this situation and address the elephant in the room. When you arrive, greet your daughter-in-law warmly, and tell her how happy you are to see them again. Tell her and your son that you are looking forward to spending quality time together. In advance, tell her that you know you got off to a rocky start last year and that what you want most is for everyone to enjoy one another's company and for all to assume the positive.
From there, just be yourself. If tender moments occur, address them immediately. If you detect her creating distance between you, speak up and ask her if there is anything you can do to help make things easier.
DEAR HARRIETTE: About a year ago, I found out my husband borrowed $5,000 from our savings account and gave it to a female co-worker. When I asked where the money had gone, he lied to me. I recently found out the co-worker hasn’t repaid the money. She comes up with excuses, but has plenty of money to buy gifts for her grandchildren and new clothes for herself. When I reached out to her about it, she called human resources on my husband. He said no one at work likes her and she has a lot of personal problems.
Our marriage hasn’t been stable, and we need the money back. How do I get her to start paying us? I have reached the end of my rope, and my husband is no help. He gets mad whenever I ask about the money. Some advice, please? -- Show Me the Money, Milwaukee
DEAR SHOW ME THE MONEY: Sadly, this really is between your husband and his co-worker. Without something in writing that states what the agreement was, you can’t know all the details, nor do you have any protection against her. As difficult as this may be, you may never get that money back. Focus on your marriage and what you can do to address your issues. That is what is within your control.
(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.)