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I Support My Parents Financially. Can I Have a Say in Their Spending?

My husband and I send monthly checks to my parents to help support them. They live rent-free in an apartment we bought them. We feel fortunate to be able to help. Now, my mother has decided she would like to move for the length of an upcoming construction project in their building. She is worried about loud noise and dust. I don’t want to question their spending, but this seems impulsive. The building fees and taxes we pay indirectly will go to waste if they move temporarily. Presumably, they will use their leftover allowance to pay rent on the second place. I am concerned about my mother’s temper (toward my father and others) if we nix this plan. And my husband may feel unappreciated if they take our generosity for granted. How can I persuade my parents not to be spendthrifts on our dime?


I may be off base, but I don’t buy your question: It seems pretty clear that you do want to challenge your parents’ spending. And your concerns about your mother’s temper and your husband’s annoyance sound like projections of your own feelings. But guess what? I’m here to tell you that it’s totally fine to feel your feelings!

Now, I am also sympathetic with your mother. Worrying about problems in the future — the noise! the dust! — can often be more distressing than those problems turn out to be. Tell your mother you understand her feelings but suggest that she hold off on moving until she sees how disruptive the construction really is.

She may go along with you. Even if she doesn’t, I don’t share your concerns about your parents moving temporarily from a construction zone. Be clear with them that you will not be increasing their monthly allowance. As long as they live within their budget, though, why should you object? Your generosity does not entitle you to approve every expenditure.

Because we are two women, most restaurant workers do not see my wife and me as a couple, even if we’re with our teenage children. They often ask if we want separate checks. They don’t seem to do this with couples or families that are headed by a man and a woman. Asking for “our check” still results in being asked if we want separate ones. It feels as if the waiters are telling us: “We don’t see you as a family,” which is unpleasant. How can we avoid this?


It can be painful to feel invisible. (Some readers may take for granted the validation that comes with being seen as a family.) A few thoughts: Hinting will probably not change entrenched worldviews. When you ask for the check, be direct: “May my wife and I have our check, please?”

Or establish your relationship earlier. When the waiter asks for your order, say: “Will you go first, dear wife?” Either approach should work. Even better, challenging people’s assumptions this way may help them treat the next L.G.B.T.Q. family with greater respect.

A few nights ago, after a fight with my wife, I packed a bag and stormed off to my cousin’s apartment. She and her new husband were kind enough to take me in. They recently moved in together, and I was their first overnight guest. When they went to their bedroom, they didn’t go to sleep. I heard loud, boisterous lovemaking. Should I have said something the next morning? I think they should know how thin their walls are, but I didn’t want them to think I was complaining.


I feel confident that I will not be the only reader who is more concerned with your response to a fight with your wife than with your cousin’s sex life. Even when we need a break from an argument, it’s less destabilizing to retreat to separate corners than to storm off with an overnight bag.

As for your cousin: After you thank her for taking you in, warn her that the walls in her apartment transmit sound clearly. No need to mention sex. This may be useful information for the next time she and her husband have an overnight guest — which, hopefully, will not be you.

I have never been good at accepting gifts or compliments. I always react with an “I don’t deserve it” feeling and response, then I immediately start planning payback. Do you have any advice for these awkward encounters?


Many of us struggle with issues of worthiness and self-esteem. (“I’m not good enough to warrant this kindness.”) Others have been raised to see the virtue of false modesty. Both result in the frequent rejection of loving gestures that others try to make toward us. And that’s a shame! It robs everyone involved.

The next time someone gives you a gift or pays you a compliment, say: “Thank you! That’s so kind.” Then force yourself to stop. Do not spit back a return compliment or make a self-deprecating remark. Just express gratitude and sit with your (likely) discomfort, knowing that you’re probably being too hard on yourself.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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