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DEAR CAROLYN: I have a lovely mother-in-law. She is an amazing grandmother, and we can rely on her to do what she says she will do.

She can also be selfish and overstep boundaries, and this seems to be getting worse as she ages.

When I ask her questions like, does she want to do this? or visit on this date?, or when I try to establish a boundary gently, sometimes I get a look and a non-answer.

She hears me. My husband will do this too, but I can ask him for a verbal response, even if it's, "I need to think about that." Typically it's when she doesn't want to do something or doesn't agree with me, but I am not sure because I can't read minds yet.

I don't expect her to agree or to say yes, but sometimes I do need an answer to continue planning.

I just feel it's rude not to respond or say SOMETHING. I have said things like, "What do you think?" and I still get a non-answer. It feels like a control tactic to me. Suggestions?

-- Blink Once for Yes, Twice for No

DEAR READER: You don't need to read her mind; you just need to guess at it. Nothing says you have to be right.

"I'll take that as a 'no,'" or, "I'll take that to mean you don't agree with me."

Then: "I'll go ahead with X" -- with X being whatever your preferred plan is that doesn't require her input -- "so just let me know if you have something else in mind."

Done. That way you have an answer, if not the right answer, which allows you to continue planning -- and she has her opportunity to correct you by speaking up as she should have in the moment if there was something she wanted to say. Be prepared to hold your ground as needed if, say, she speaks up too late in the planning process.

Plus, if these non-answers are in fact a control tactic (certainly sounds possible), then you'll have foiled it utterly. Projecting her answer and then acting on it means your plans are no longer at her mercy.

Best of all, if cheerfully done, this tactic leaves the loveliness of your relationship intact. Think of it as a grand jeté over an obstruction, as if it's not even there.

DEAR CAROLYN: A friend of my sister-in-law has a daughter who is getting married soon. Sister-in-law was invited, my wife and I were not.

Now sister-in-law's plus-one cannot go. We saw the bride's mom by chance in public, and she invited my wife to be the plus-one.

I said to my wife that was a classless thing to do. Inviting a married woman to a wedding and not her husband?

My wife is now mad at me because she thinks she was only invited to be the plus-one. I said it was not the bride's mother's job to pick the plus-one. Thoughts?

-- Anonymous

DEAR READER: I think you're overthinking, overjudging, over-harrumphing.

This was a generous, impromptu offer for two sisters (right?) to be together in celebration of someone they both know ... someone you aren't as close to as they are. Right?

If so, then why on Earth begrudge your wife that?

Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email

Style on 10/08/2019

Print Headline: Answer for the silent; sometimes invitation is just invitation


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