I’m as confused as a goat on AstroTurf, and I hope you can help me: My wife and I are retired. We got married a year ago. About two years before that, when we started to get serious about each other, I invited her to move into my home. (I own it, and there’s no mortgage on it.) Since the day she moved in, she has paid half the utilities and grocery bills. But she refuses to pay any of the home maintenance costs, property taxes or insurance premiums because she is not on the deed. In the event of my death, half my estate, including the house, will go to her, and the other half to my adult son. I believe she should pay a portion of the insurance and property taxes. Am I being unreasonable?
There are as many ways to allocate costs in a relationship as there are couples; there is no right way. But here’s my take on your situation: Your wife doesn’t sound like a cheapskate. She has paid for food and utilities since she moved in. But your estate plan effectively robs her of housing security, which may make a retiree reluctant to pony up more money. Under your will, it appears that your son — with his half-interest in the house — could force a sale soon after your death. Where would your wife go then?
I would address this issue head-on: Offer to amend your will to provide that your wife may stay in the house during her lifetime (or for a few years, at least) if you die before her. By giving her a measure of security, you may find her more receptive to taking on additional costs for taxes and insurance.
Now, two questions for you: Does your wife have the resources to make the payments you want? (It would be imprudent for her to spend more on housing than she can afford.) And in your calculation of household expenses, are you crediting unpaid costs — such as cooking and cleaning — that often fall silently to women? (Those are real expenses, too!) If I were you, I would start a gentle conversation about your finances and security as a couple. You may be surprised what you learn.
A Valuable Lesson, Courtesy of a Baby Doll
My husband and I are white. I bought our daughter several dolls of different races with skin colors that reflect the diversity of our community. Her absolute favorite is a Black baby doll. She carries him everywhere. My partner feels uncomfortable with this when we are in public, though. He worries that her doll seems like appropriation or virtue signaling. Your thoughts?
Playing with dolls allows young children to practice showing empathy and loving care to others. I think it’s wonderful to give your daughter a chance to express those tender feelings across race lines. She isn’t taking — or appropriating — anything from Black culture by caring for a Black doll. And respectfully, if your partner finds this troubling, perhaps he should investigate his own feelings about race — not take a doll from a child.
I’ll Keep Your Secret, but Keep My Kids Out of It
My sister is an independent woman. She started dating a guy, but has kept it secret from my parents to avoid intrusive questions and undue pressure. She asked me to meet him to check him out, and I did. (He’s a nice guy.) My mother suspected something was up, but I evaded her questions and kept my sister’s secret. Now, my sister wants my children to meet this guy in secret, too. I said no, and she is hurt. To me, this feels like asking my children to plot behind grandma’s back. Am I being unfair?
Not at all! Your sister is free (and may have good reason) to keep her new relationship from your parents, but that’s no excuse for asking your children to keep secrets from them. I sympathize with your sister; some parents go into high gear when their adult children start new relationships. But secrets and lies are burdens. And here, they may damage your kids’ relationship with their grandparents. There is nothing inconsistent about protecting your children and supporting your sister simultaneously.
I Can’t Really Vouch for It, but It’s Definitely Wine
My husband and I are not wine drinkers, but we receive several bottles a year, usually as holiday gifts from his co-workers. I feel weird bringing one to a dinner party: I don’t know if the wine is any good, and I’m uncomfortable with regifting. So, the bottles pile up until we throw them out. Is there a polite way to nudge people away from certain categories of gifts?
You seem pretty committed to talking yourself out of any solution here other than asking for a different gift. (I can’t bring the wine to a party — it may be rotgut! Regifting is wrong!) But these bottles of wine are merely token gifts. Why not bring three to a dinner party and say you have no idea if they’re any good? Or give them all to a friend who loves wine. Surely that’s better than throwing them away. Unless we are talking about close friends, the only polite response to a token gift is: Thank you!
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.