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Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 11 years. This is my third marriage and his second.

Due to some not-so-smart choices on my part, I was not financially secure when I married my husband. He did not mind and said we would work on improving my credit together.

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When we bought our home, I could not be on the mortgage because of a bankruptcy. His mother was generous enough to cosign the loan with him. I am grateful to her. However, my husband believes that I don’t behave gratefully enough toward her and also that, because of her generosity, I should consider myself “in her debt” until she dies.

She and I do not have a great relationship; she brings her dog to our house and makes no effort to keep it from leaving “presents” on our hardwood floors. She believes that her son should do nothing around the house when he gets home from work because my work “isn’t that strenuous” (I am a high school teacher). My husband helps around the house and never complains about it.

Is there a better way to tell my husband I am grateful but do not believe I owe her a life debt?

A. Your mother-in-law — not your husband — is the one who needs to hear this from you. It is obviously not good for your relationship to have her name on the note for your house. Some families could handle this boundary issue, but yours obviously cannot. Your husband could ease this dynamic, but he chooses to inflate it instead.

You can solve this problem by refinancing your home, getting your mother-in-law out of your marital finances, and reclaiming your domicile.

After 11 years of marriage and working, I hope your credit has been restored to the extent that you can figure out a way to pay off your mother-in-law (if she has made any actual investment other than assuming the risk of cosigning the note). If necessary, you should take a second job (perhaps during the summer) to achieve this.

Then you can sincerely express (yet again) your gratitude toward your mother-in-law and joyfully let her know that she is now off the hook.

Q. I’m 65 years old. I have three adult kids from a previous marriage. A year ago, I married a nice lady (44 years old).

At the time we married, she agreed that she does not want to have kids. Well, now she wants kids. I agreed to make her happy, but she did not get pregnant.

We went to five doctors, and all said there is nothing wrong with either of us. Now she wants to visit more and pursue IVF.

I refused to do anything other than have a normal and natural pregnancy. Please help.

A. Would you be willing to adopt a baby that had been conceived the “normal and natural” way by another couple? I suspect not, because you don’t actually want to have more children.

You need to be brave enough to face this fact with your wife, who is quickly exiting her fertile years.

You can easily accuse your much younger wife of switching the “all children left behind” rule she agreed to upon marriage, but the desire to have a baby is more powerful than the embarrassment of reneging on a verbal agreement.

You two should work this out with a professional counselor. It could be a deal breaker for your marriage.

Be aware that she is likely to get pregnant (the “normal” way) during this period. Why? Because the universe has a twisted sense of humor.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at

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