DEAR AMY: I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She's very supportive and loving. I call her regularly and visited for a week when my husband was deployed.
We don't live in the same state, so when we visit her, we stay in her house. My in-laws live out in the country, so there are no hotels nearby.
The problem is that on a scale of 1 to 10 for being a hoarder, she's probably a seven. It's very stressful for me to be in such a cluttered environment, stepping over boxes and being squished into a guest room piled with things.
During one of my visits I spent the entire day cleaning while she was out of the house. I just wanted to show her that it's possible to keep her house tidy. Unfortunately, it didn't last, and there's stuff everywhere again.
I'm dreading our next visit. It increases my blood pressure and anxiety when I stay there. Should I deal with the stress for just a short period of time since she does so much for us? Or should I risk upsetting her and no longer being welcome in their home? -- Devoted Daughter-in-law
DEAR DEVOTED: Your mother-in-law is unwilling or unable to radically change the way she lives. Tolerance is called for because you cannot force her toward change.
Other than simply keeping your visits short, the most obvious solution is for you to find somewhere nearby to stay, either with another family member or at a B&B or the nearest motel (even if it's an hour away). Sleeping at night in a relatively uncluttered environment will make your daytime visits easier.
Explain this by telling her, "I sleep much better when we're not underfoot. I definitely want to spend time with you, but this works better for me. I hope that's OK with you."
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend, his two children and I moved in together four years ago. At that time I agreed to pay half the rent and one-third of the utilities.
After a cut in pay and extra medical bills, I have had difficulty paying my share.
I talked with him and told him I wanted to start paying 25% of everything. After many arguments, we agreed that I would pay one-third of the rent and one-fourth of the utilities. Since this agreement (one week ago), he will hardly speak to me and says I'm living off of him! Am I in the wrong or is our arrangement fair? -- Paying my Way
DEAR PAYING: On paper, your agreement seems fair.
But relationships don't happen on paper, they happen in the living room, the kitchen, the car and in the bedroom.
Normally, a successful negotiation will result in basic understanding and satisfaction, even if one (usually both) parties don't get exactly what they want.
Your partner should not have agreed to this financial settlement if he was then going to punish you for it.
In healthy and loving relationships, normally a "one for all and all for one" attitude prevails. If your relationship boils down to "you're living off of me," then it might be best to reconsider why you're together in the first place.
DEAR AMY: Your advice to "Worried" was right on. She was excessively concerned about personal photos of her new boyfriend's late wife on the walls of his home.
As a widow of six years, I still have pictures of my husband throughout the house because they give my kids and me great comfort. I believe Worried was confusing "ex" wife with "late" wife, and, frankly, after two months of dating, she has no right to ask him to change anything around his house.
I know that when I get to the point where I'm ready to share space with someone else, I will understand the need to make some changes. Until then, it's my house. And anyone who can't understand why I still have a few pictures of my late husband around? Well, I probably shouldn't be dating them anyway. -- Catherine
DEAR CATHERINE: I agree with you. "Worried" seemed offended by photos of her guy's late wife, in a relationship that was only two months old.