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Ask Amy: Generous father plans a blues cruise

Dear Amy: I am a father to four adult children and a stepson. All are married or have long-term partners, except for my youngest.

I have been with my current girlfriend and her two teenagers for over five years.

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I decided, when the first vaccine for COVID was nearing approval, to invite all my children and their spouses/partners on a seven-day cruise next year, all expenses paid.

Initially, I thought I would have my unattached youngest daughter share a room with her brother and his girlfriend.

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In discussing this with her, she instead asked if she could bring her best friend, and as I was paying for everyone else’s partner, it seemed fair that she could also bring someone.

I told her yes and paid for all the reservations and airfares.

When my girlfriend found out about this arrangement, she was livid, insisting that the best friend (whom we had never met) was not a family member and should pay her own way.

My girlfriend is threatening not to go, nor will she allow her two children to accompany us.

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My girlfriend has never gotten along with my youngest very well, but she insists that her issue is entirely about family vs. others.

I am at a loss as how to proceed.

I would feel terrible uninviting the best friend. My daughter might refuse to come. Other family members might drop out.

On the other hand, all my children are adults, so my relationship with my girlfriend should be a priority for me, right?

– Generous to a Fault

Dear Generous: You are not married to your girlfriend. She is not contributing money toward this extravagant and generous trip. If your girlfriend is differentiating between “family” and “other,” does she alone get to decide who falls into what category?

None of the burden of planning or paying for this trip falls to her. Some people might have offered to include this “best friend” only if the friend paid for her own passage and expenses – but you aren’t doing it that way. And, as it is your dime, you get to choose how to spend it.

Quite literally, your girlfriend’s only job is to show up with her children, accept your generosity, and enjoy herself. You should tell her that the offer of this trip is still on the table, and you hope that she and her children will accept it, but that the final decision is hers to make.

Dear Amy: Just before the pandemic, I moved into my very first home.

I quickly bonded with my wonderful neighbors.

I am a great cook, and so is one neighbor in particular.

We began trading food; really wonderful food, but she is very heavy handed with pepper.

I can tolerate a lot of spice in my food, but the pepper/spiciness of every recipe overwhelms the flavors of the dish.

Mostly I rework the dishes to try and tame the heat, but on occasion, I have tossed out the remainders.

I am grateful to be the recipient of her always delicious food, but don’t want to mar the new friendship by saying something and sounding ungrateful.

Normally, I logically resolve problems, but this one really has me stymied.

Do I keep accepting the food knowing it will be too darn spicy, or should I say something?

They are terrific neighbors.

– On Fire in California

Dear On Fire: Let me try to suggest wording for you.

“Wow, your chicken paprikash was amazing, but unfortunately I’m pretty sensitive to spicy and peppery foods. That might be why my own dishes are probably on the mild side for you.”

Dear Amy: Reading various questions about over-involved mothers-in-law, I had to share my story with you.

Before my son got married, he and I had been extremely close.

So, after his marriage to a wonderful girl, my son still felt close to me and would ask my advice and then mention to his wife how I would do certain things.

A close friend pointed this out to me, knowing it bothered my daughter-in-law.

The very next time my son came to me for advice, I steered him in the direction of his intelligent, smart, amazing wife.

My relationship with son and daughter-in-law is still strong, but their marriage became even stronger.

Mother-in-laws need to know their place!

– Best MIL

Dear MIL: It can be challenging to step aside and allow a new spouse to become a primary partner to a child you’ve raised.

Your wisdom applies to all in-law parents – not only mothers.

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©2021 Amy Dickinson.

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