Dear Amy: My husband and I (and our two children) are relocating. We have spent the past 18 months researching a really beautiful mountain community.
We were approved for a rental property there, but it fell through just as we were packing the moving truck.
Luckily, my (relatively well-off) mother heard about it, and out of the blue, she offered to help us BUY a house in this same area (instead of us having to find another place to rent).
After a few days of mulling this over, we took her up on her generous proposition and she put in an offer on a house for our family.
At first, she wanted to give the house to us, with no strings attached, as our early inheritance. Then she realized that she couldn’t afford that, and offered to rent it to us at below-market value so we could save for our own down payment (we agreed to that wholeheartedly).
But then she decided that it was an investment. Her requirements changed hourly: First we needed to pay more in rent; then we needed to agree to do significant repairs; then she wanted a commitment that we would buy the house from her after five years; then she wanted to take “before” videos in case we trashed the house; and then she just didn’t want that house AT ALL, and tried to force us into moving to a nearby city instead.
Her response was that since she was footing the bill, she would buy a house where she saw fit, and our needs were secondary. The transaction fell apart amid many tears, and now we’re not speaking.
We are heartbroken and angry that she put us and the kids through so much turmoil. However, she evidently feels wronged and has insinuated that I was “fake crying,” among other things. I’m not sure how to move forward when she changes the story to suit her own narrative. Please help. — Thanks, but NO Thanks
Dear Thanks: Say a hearty hello (and thank you) to the bullet you dodged. Fortunately, your mother’s behavior was so outrageous that you were able to avoid an even worse mess. Imagine if she had been even slightly more reasonable, and if you had actually taken residence of this home with your mother as your landlord? Yikes.
You cannot control your mother’s shifting narrative, any more than you could control her shifting deal-making. Assume that she will not acknowledge or apologize for her role in this mess.
You can try to turn the page on this sorry affair by saying (to yourself, and to her), “I sincerely believe that you were trying to help. I appreciate your intentions, even though things didn’t work out.”
After that, you should decline to discuss it, unless it is to accept her apology.
If she doesn’t accept this extremely generous take on things, then keeping your distance seems appropriate.
Dear Amy: The following has happened to me twice, recently: I was chatting with a friend, “George,” and mentioned that my husband and I were having dinner with mutual friends.
George said, “Great, I’ve been wanting to get together with them. Do you mind if I crash your dinner party?”
I didn’t want him there because George tends to dominate the conversation whenever he joins the group, making it challenging to catch up with others at the table.
How does one tactfully and kindly decline such a request? Any suggestions would be appreciated. — Hungry, but not for Company
Dear Hungry: I don’t think it’s necessary to be tactful when dealing with “George.” George sounds like the kind of guy to read “tact” as passivity, encouraging him to stomp on in, pull up a chair and hold forth.
He says, “Do you mind if I crash your dinner party?”
And you say, “Ha-ha, George, you crack me up. Yes, I definitely would mind. But let’s plan something with all of us for another time.”
Dear Amy: I would like to add one suggestion to your answer to “Unhappy Camper in Florida.” Unhappy was upset because her husband had been “found” by a 50-year-old biological daughter he never knew he had!
She should consult with a lawyer and a financial adviser regarding the new changes in her life. If her husband dies before her, what will be the consequences? — Faithful Reader
Dear Reader: A biological child does not automatically receive money from an estate upon a parent’s death, but I agree with you that this couple should definitely do some estate planning.