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posted: 6/16/2014 1:01 AM

How do you protect your child from a mean relative?

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Q. My husband and I have been together 12 years. His mother is mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive.

We now have a daughter, and after years of silence, I can't take the abuse anymore. I don't want our child growing up near it. My husband agrees, but wants his mom to know our girl.

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I'd love for that to happen but I fear putting our child in a situation where I have to try to explain why "grandma" was so mean to her. My nephews, now old enough to understand her words, all want nothing to do with their grandmother. Where do I go from here?

Stuck

A. To a very firm line, and no further: His mother sees her granddaughter only with rock-solid supervision. Any abuse and the visits end. Your parental duty to protect trumps any duty he has to his mom.

Q. My girlfriend is a health professional who can work extra hours for extra income. Unfortunately, those hours usually are weekends, which cut into our time together. We have had several discussions about this, and some of the extra work is for her to take care of all expenses as they arise. Admirable, but again, it comes at "our" expense.

She is very independent and I have asked her to lean on me a little to take some pressure off. It is also a good way to prepare for a life together, which we agree is our mutual goal.

How do I address this without just complaining and revisiting a few prior discussions? How much complaining is too much complaining?

Togetherness

A. Any complaining that occurs when you know you've made your preference clear, and after you have given the other person a chance to act on that knowledge, is too much complaining.

Upping one or two clear requests to "several discussions" hasn't stopped her from working extra or remaining financially independent, so standing on your head and wearing a glitter vest and serving popcorn for the nth conversation (with n = several + 1) will likely hit the same wall.

The answer to your "how do I address" question is to face the fact of that wall. She wants to work weekends. Why? Only she can say, and certainly she owes you transparency, but financial independence is plenty persuasive to me.

I suggest taking this a step further and facing the fact of her. It's common to go into a relationship, then commitment, with an image of how a shared life should look. Please don't do that to either of you.

Instead, look at what you have. Look at who you are, and who she is, look at what you create in combination. Then decide if that's a life you'll commit to.

Meaning, instead of taking another run at the idea of clearing her weekends, see her. She's independent. She works a lot. You gave her a chance to do weekends your way, or compromise on them, and she stuck to her way. This isn't right or wrong, it's just who she is.

Accepting that is a "good way to prepare for a life together" or for breaking up, if that's what makes sense. It's better, certainly, than racking your brain and mine for new methods of changing her ways.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

© 2014 The Washington Post

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