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Aunt wonders how to counsel niece on marriage

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am close with my niece, who recently got engaged. Her now-fiance was up front, by saying he didn't really believe in marriage. She was up front, too, saying that if he ever wanted to buy a house, her name would not go on a mortgage if they weren't married. Not that she would break up with him -- she would stay, but she would want a lease agreement rather than put her name on the mortgage.

Recently, he got serious about buying a house and my niece stuck to her guns -- either get married or sign a lease. He proposed.

Now he says his grandparents have to be at the wedding. But they are almost 5,000 miles away and too old to fly, so he is insisting they get married where the grandparents live.

Amy, my niece's father has advanced Parkinson's disease and can't possibly travel that far, either. In addition, 98 percent of both of their immediate families are being excluded from the wedding held in this remote location, because they can't afford to get there.

I think he is being passive-aggressive because of my niece's refusal to put her name on a mortgage without being married. This business of excluding her father and disenfranchising her entire family from the wedding is unconscionable.

I think he is purposely creating obstacles because he doesn't really want to get married.

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My niece has asked me for advice. She really loves him and wants to marry him, but she sees it as a stalemate on the location -- I see a reluctant groom.

What should I tell her?

-- Worried Aunt

Dear Aunt: My perspective about this couple is that they use negotiation, rather than consensus, to advance their relationship. I don't think this is hugely uncommon. However, if this is the way they operate and communicate, your niece needs to be prepared for future stalemates, especially surrounding large life events that are already stressful. Have they talked about having children, how to share their expenses or future care issues having to do with their parents?

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