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Ask Amy: Loyal stepdad shouldn’t unload on family

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I have been married to “Bev” for 14 years. She is wonderful. It is a second marriage for both of us.

Her son, “Cliff,” is like a son to me, and I love him very much. The problem is that my wife’s family, who all live locally, seem to think of Cliff as something other than being immediate family. Cliff is a real estate agent. He is part-owner of a company, and a real estate broker.

Cliff works extremely hard to make a living and yet he has several family members who will not use his services.

His first cousin refused to use him while buying and selling numerous houses, to the tune of approximately $225,000 in lost revenue for Cliff.

Cliff has a wife and two children, and certainly could use the money.

The same exact thing happened five years ago, and my wife did not talk to her sister or niece for almost three years because of it. They are very snobbish, and don’t include us in their gatherings.

I am fed up with it and want to unload on the bunch of them; including the parents who I think are partly to blame for this whole situation.

As it stands right now, I do not want any of them in my house at all. Based on this; however, I feel if I did unload, it would mean that my wife would end up losing whatever relationship she now has with her sister and niece.

What do you think I should do?

– Furious Stepdad

Dear Furious: I believe your choice to frame this business situation as “lost revenue” is a little misleading. In my opinion, this is not lost revenue (because he never had the revenue to start with), but “potential income.”

This makes a difference, because you seem to see this as business that was taken from “Cliff,” versus business that was not offered to him.

Your loyalty toward him is laudable, but before you choose to unload, you should carefully consider the consequences.

First of all, acting out would not benefit him – and it might actually hurt him.

If this family of snobbish locals chooses to retaliate, they could badmouth his business, which relies strongly on good referrals and great reviews.

Furthermore, your choice to unload would likely damage your wife’s relationship with her family further.

Cliff will have to build up his business through other means, and there might be more positive ways you can help, aside from punishing these family members.

If your wife wants to completely break with her kin, she should make that move on her own, and you should support her.

Dear Amy: Is it ever right to give unsolicited advice to a loved one if you say in advance that they are free to take your advice, or not?

 

For instance, is it right to offer said advice in a case where you see the train wreck coming and you would never forgive yourself if you did not try to avert it?

– Asking for a Friend

Dear Asking: A few words about advice: Anyone is always free to “take or not take” advice -- solicited or otherwise. Keep that very much in mind.

I have a quote scrawled on a Post-It note over my desk: “Unsolicited advice is always self-serving.”

For instance, your desire to warn someone away from a speeding train allays your own anxiety; it might also give you some “told you so” satisfaction later.

Unsolicited advice can also negatively affect your relationship with the person to whom you’re offering it, because it seems intrusive and personal.

That having been said, if you see a train bearing down on a loved-one, yes – you should warn them.

Just don’t expect them to necessarily heed your warning.

You can offer up your advice by essentially asking the other person to invite it. For instance, “I have a point of view regarding your personal situation. May I share it with you?”

If the other person says, “Yes – go ahead,” they’re more likely to hear what you say.

Dear Amy: “Tired and Taxed” said his wife had hidden many of her financial assets, while continuing to accept his financial support for the running of the household.

Thank you for suggesting that he call a lawyer. Some forensic accounting is called for, and her response to the idea of a “post-nup” could give him an important clue concerning the future of their marriage.

– Supportive Husband

Dear Supportive: I agree.

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(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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