Annie's Mailbox: Stuck in the Middle
Dear Annie: I'd like to fix the relationship between my fiancee and my mother before things get out of hand.
My fiancee, "Beth," fixates on instances where she feels my mother has slighted her. For example, Beth calls me by a shortened version of my name, a nickname my mother hates and has ranted on about. My mother has also raved about the many talents and successes of the friends I had in high school (a decade ago) while only complimenting Beth on how "cute" she is (something that annoys Beth to no end.)
I either don't recognize these issues in the moment, or I'm not present when they happen. I have told my mother how much Beth means to me and asked her directly whether there is something she doesn't like about her, but it's made no difference. Mom has a tendency to run at the mouth and I'm not convinced she thinks about how her words impact those around her. I can understand why Beth feels animosity from Mom.
Both my family and my fiancee are extremely important to me. Beth gets along with the rest of my family, but it seems that every interaction with my mother leads to hurt feelings. I would suggest a direct conversation between the two, but that possibility seems remote. How can I improve this relationship before it reaches a breaking point? -- Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck: First we commend you for recognizing how damaging this dynamic is and making an effort to fix things. Your mother sounds jealous with her unflattering comparisons and subtle criticisms. But Beth seems insecure and overly focused on slights, intentional or not.
Please talk to them separately. Tell your mother firmly that she must accept your fiancee or she will be the one to lose out. Explain that she raised you well, so she should trust your choice in a life partner. Add that getting along with Beth means having another person to love, and more access to you and future grandchildren.
Then speak to Beth. Tell her that Mom is anxious, and fearful that she is losing her son. She needs reassurance, tolerance and patience. Make sure Beth understands that you love Mom and aren't going to cut ties. But if the two of them refuse to accept one another, there is nothing wrong with visiting Mom on your own and letting Beth stay home.
Dear Annie: A while back you had a letter from "Stuffy in the Suburbs," who complained that her neighbor smoked on his back porch, and the smoke wafted into her bedroom. She liked to sleep with the windows open and her husband was allergic to the smoke.
A cheap, easy solution to the problem is to buy a window fan and direct the flow outward. There's no incoming smoke, and you get a nice breeze along with some white noise to aid slumber. -- Shreveport, Louisiana
Dear Shreveport: We also recommended a fan, but we didn't mention the added benefit of the white noise. Thanks for the helpful postscript.
"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.