Q. I recently found out that my employer’s wife thinks we are having an affair. My boss and I have known each other for 25 years, both as friends and co-workers. We are quite close and I consider him a brother-type figure.
My husband and I ran into this couple, and I was shocked when the wife shot me a dirty look. I asked my boss about it the next day, and he told me straight out that she is accusing us of fooling around (with no basis for her suspicions). I told my husband immediately, and he trusts that nothing is going on.
The company we work for is very small. As a company we have all traveled and socialized together (including spouses). We will have a company holiday party-dinner, and I’ve told my husband I’m not interested in going.
My husband and my sister both say I should go because I’ve done nothing wrong, but how do I handle myself appropriately when there are so few people present — and only three other women to talk to (her being one of them)?
A. The bravest, most straightforward thing you could do would be to contact this woman independently to say, “Bart has told me that you suspect us of having an affair. Can you explain this to me?” She will either sputter and deny it or admit her suspicions. Either way, you can say, “Well it’s simply not true, and I want you to know I find this accusation really out of line and I’m upset by it.”
She may apologize or she may be unrepentant. Either way, this clears the way for you to carry on with your life without the damning unfounded allegation hanging over your head.
Q. I have three grown children who are married with kids of their own. I am fortunate that they live nearby and I can visit once or twice a month.
The problem is that they do a lot of bickering in front of me or complaining about their spouses’ “laziness” or “pickiness” or other flaws while I am with them. I often leave upset and worried that they will divorce.
I love seeing my grandchildren, and these visits mean so much to me. I don’t know if this is the norm for young couples with families or if they are headed for something bad.
Should I just shut it out, or should I speak up?
A. You are their mother. Part of this privilege means that you get to use your position once in a while to say something important. And this is very important.
Bickering in front of other people — or complaining about your spouse to your parent — is damaging to all of the relationships involved. Couples should not draw other people (their parents or their children) into their intimate relationship. It is very confusing — outrageous, really — to hear someone bitterly complain to the extent that you worry about the future of their marriage, and then you see them carry on as if everything is fine (and everything may be fine with these couples).
Tell all of your kids, “This is a destructive habit, and it makes me very uncomfortable.”
Q. Another comment about children opening gifts in front of each other:
My parents had us wait until the guests had left. This was to spare the feelings of children who might have had limited funds and had not given very good gifts.
I wish more parents were as thoughtful as mine were.
A. Your parents could have taught you to be compassionate toward your friends while also opening their gifts at the party.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.