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Ask Amy column

Q. My partner’s mother is a very unreasonable person. She is very hard on her daughter. No matter what my partner does, she is not supportive and always criticizes her.

Lately she has given us a lot of ultimatums. The first one was because we were planning to adopt two cats to be companions for our little dog. We were told that if we got the cats, she would not come over to the house for a visit.

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For Thanksgiving we have invited friends to share the meal with us. My “mother-in-law” said that if we invited anybody for Thanksgiving, she would not come. Now the latest ultimatum is that if I invite any of my family over for dinner on Christmas, she will not come.

I know this has been hurting my partner. She wants her mother to be with us for Christmas. Now my partner’s mother is telling me that I have to make a decision as to whether I see my family for Christmas or I see her.

My partner agrees that I should have my family for Christmas, but this is painful for her. How do I deal with this? What do I say to my mother-in-law? Help!

A. Your partner’s mother can lay down whatever ultimatums she likes, but you should know that this is a pathetic and mad grab for power and control. If you give in, the family terrorist wins.

You and your partner should do your best to run a peaceful, happy home with your pets, friends, and family. I like the idea of continuing to invite your partner’s mother to join you for holidays, etc., but she doesn’t get to control the pet count or guest list. It’s that simple.

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This behavior is designed to divide and conquer. Don’t let this happen. If you give in to one unreasonable demand, you will encourage her to demand more. You and your partner should stay on the same page. You should always be respectful and kind to her, while working hard to maintain your own sense of calm. She will have to adjust to this, and if you stay firm she might come around.

Q. The man of my dreams asked me to marry him last night, and while I am so excited to get married to him, I was disappointed with the way he asked — and especially with the ring. He asked me on the eve of my birthday in the living room. This is fine, but he knows I would have much rather received this proposal in a natural setting.

Money has been very tight, and sometimes we even struggle to find money for food. So I was not expecting a ring and couldn’t believe it when he gave me one. However it is a very cheap ring, and while I love him very much and understand this is just a symbol, I would have preferred nothing to something chintzy.

I would have rather saved and gotten something nice later or just wear a modest wedding band. Now I have to wear something that I don’t really like for the rest of my life. What should I do?

A. Imagine how the man of your dreams might feel to learn that everything about his proposal was wrong. Please don’t convey this to him.

You do get to talk about the ring, however. Do not refer to it as “chintzy,” but do ask if you could return it to shop together for something inexpensive to take its place. You may find an inexpensive “estate” ring you both like. Otherwise, it is completely acceptable to be engaged without a ring and save for later.

Send questions by e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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