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Money-Minded Mother-in-Law

She tells me how to spend my money. Help!

My husband recently took over the family business, for which my mother-in-law takes care of the books. But now that she knows all about our finances, she thinks she can tell us how to spend our money. I'm fed up. Help!

Criticism by a mother-in-law cuts deep. And in your situation, when she has "inside information," the cut is even more likely to burn. However, you have a few options to curtail the unwelcome critique of your financial decisions.

First, because this is a new working dynamic, your husband might still have a window of opportunity to find a new position for your mother-in-law that removes her from the bookkeeping without hurting her feelings. Take your mother-in-law's personality and abilities into consideration when determining whether she would respond well to a job change.

If such a move would create a larger problem than the one you currently deal with, the second option is to set clear boundaries. When your mother-in-law offers her opinion about a financial decision you've made, speak up. Be polite but assertive. Don't feel obligated to explain or apologize for your choices; simply say something non-defensive like, "You think so, huh?" Even better is to deflate her critique completely by agreeing with her. Say something like, "You're probably right. Thanks for the input." You may cringe at this, but it works. Soon she'll back off.

Another option is to create a diversion by asking her questions: How was money handled in her home as a child? How about in her early marriage? Explore how and why she handles money the way she does. You have to do this with a genuine heart, however, and only to understand her, not to argue a point. The bottom line is, you have to do something before you get even more fed up and say something you regret.

Too Much to Love?

My husband is a good father and has a heart for God. But he weighs 100 pounds more today than when we got married 22 years ago. He's always trying a new diet or exercise program, but he never sticks with any of them. I've harbored years of frustration and disappointment for what he's done to his body, and now I feel myself pulling back from him emotionally and physically. How can I learn to accept him for whom he is today?

Weight is a heavy issue in many marriages. Sorry for the pun, but it's true. When a spouse is obese, physical and emotional complications are likely to strike the marriage. So what can you do?

If you're sincerely invested in accepting your husband for whom he is today, you need to ramp up your empathy for him. Imagine being in his skin. How would you feel? What would you be saying to yourself? With more empathy comes more compassion and acceptance.

You need not deny your lessened attraction to your husband, but neither should you underscore this as a threat or disappointment (chances are, he's already very aware of this reality). Instead, respond with positive feedback when you're the most attracted to your husband. I recommend you list all the things you like about him. Revisit it often. Share it with him. This will go a long way in cultivating the kind of acceptance of your husband you seek. And these are the transformational moments that will give him the energy to make significant lifestyle changes.

Let me also suggest you avoid becoming his "food police." Surely you're tempted to do this. Watching his repeated failures at dieting can be extremely discouraging. The danger here is that the more concerned and involved you get in this issue, the more likely it is he'll be unable to make any significant changes. Facilitate what you can. Be supportive. But leave it to other people, such as his physician or a support group, to lower the boom and provide accountability.

A Boyfriend with Baggage

I'm dating a wonderful Christian man who suffered through a divorce two years ago and still struggles with some unresolved issues relating to his ex-wife's adultery. Is there anything I can do to help him move beyond his pain?

The pain of a past betrayal is like a bomb exploding in the heart. It forever affects one's ability to love, and this man's divorce will inevitably create "issues" for you and him. When I wrote Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts with my husband, we did research to understand exactly how a previous divorce impacts a new relationship. We learned you need to be particularly patient with him as he does his best to recapture the kind of trust level he had before his ex-wife's betrayal. This will take time and understanding from you.

If he hasn't done so already, encourage him to examine how his relationship with his former spouse has impacted him at conscious and subconscious levels. What lessons did he learn as a result of his painful journey? How would he say it affects his capacity to be intimate, express his true feelings, and so on? If he has a tough time articulating answers to these questions, he may need to seek help from a counselor.

Keep the traditional stages of grief in mind: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. He'll have to go through these to find closure on this painful chapter in his life. Recognize this fact. Your sympathetic, listening presence is what may fuel his ability to move though these stages effectively.

Leslie Parrott, Ed.D. is co-founder (with husband, Les) of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University and the author of several books, including Love Talk (Zondervan). Have a relationship question for Leslie? Check out her website at www.RealRelationships.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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