DEAR AMY: My 45-year-old brother-in-law has always been financially irresponsible. He filed for bankruptcy.
Currently, he and his second wife live with my father-in-law and do not pay rent or help with any bills. My 90-year-old father-in-law's bank account is being depleted because of the son's irresponsibility.
My husband and I have always been responsible with our finances. Last week we received a message on our answering machine from a collection agency asking for my brother-in-law to be responsible and pay his bills.
This is the second such call we have received. He has never lived with us, and I am unsure of how the collection agency got our phone number.
I believe that my brother-in-law should be told that we have received this call and should take steps toward becoming responsible. My husband says it is none of our business.
Who is right?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your husband may know more than he is telling you. For instance, it is possible that he has agreed to co-sign for a loan with his brother. This would explain how a collection agency had your phone number, and why your husband might want to ignore the calls.
You should ask your husband and call the collection agency to get to the bottom of your household's entanglement in your brother's finances.
Your 90-year-old father-in-law's financial situation should be a priority for you and your husband. If you two have always been responsible with your finances, you may be able to influence and mentor your father-in-law to protect his dwindling resources.
If you don't tackle this now, it will fall into your lap eventually — and the situation will only grow more chaotic.
DEAR AMY: I've been involved with my boyfriend for a year and a half, and we have become very serious. He is wonderful, and I can see us being together for life. I just have one question I need your advice on.
At this point, neither of us wants children (we are both in our late 20s). I have told him I might change my mind about having children, and he is open to the possibility.
The problem is that he believes — quite strongly — in corporal punishment for children. I don't. I've never been hit and would never want my child to be hit.
It seems harsh to break up with this otherwise great partner for child-rearing differences that have a strong likelihood of never becoming an issue. (I really don't want children, but I wonder if that dormant "mommy gene" is going to kick in.)
— No Spanking
DEAR NO: People tend to believe in — and defend — the parenting style of their own parents, even if they also feel their parents made mistakes.
This presents an opportunity to explore your guy's beliefs with him. Did his parents hit him? What about corporal punishment is appealing to him? Can he imagine that other techniques would be as — or more — effective? If he ever had children, would he be willing to try other tools for discipline?
My view is that adults hitting kids is disrespectful and doesn't teach children what they need most to learn — how to modulate their own behavior thoughtfully and without violence.
So far your guy's child-rearing beliefs are in theory only. I don't think it's a deal-breaker, but his strong belief in corporal punishment may reveal other things about him that you should know about before committing to a life together.
DEAR AMY: I've enjoyed letters in your column singing the praises of thoughtful in-laws.
Four years after graduation from college and just a few months after our daughter was born, my husband announced he wanted to go to law school. I told him to go for it, and he did. He worked days and went to law school at night.
At graduation, my mother-in-law gave me a gift! She said that I had the hardest part of it all and that I deserved something.
The "something" was a piano for our living room! And that's the way my in-laws always were. I was very lucky.
— Grateful DIL
DEAR GRATEFUL: So many problems spring from tension among in-laws. It's a pleasure to highlight positive experiences.
Send questions to email@example.com