How Can I Stop My In-Laws From Making Impromptu Visits?

My husband and I moved to New York 10 years ago. His parents lived 100 miles away. It seemed like a good move: closer to family, but not too close. Then my in-laws bought a second home three minutes from ours. It’s awkward! They will have appointments scheduled months in advance, but wait to ask to drop by to see our kids until the day of the proposed visit. My spouse works long hours, so I am the host — and I’m busy. They ask to come over frequently, but if we suggest a different plan, like taking them to dinner, they dig in their heels until we relent. Obviously, there is a lack of communication. They are also the main reason my husband and I fight. What can we do?


Let’s start with the most important channel of communication here: the one between you and your husband. He is probably closer to his parents than you are. So, to avoid becoming the wicked daughter-in-law from central casting, ask him to take an active role in setting ground rules for them.

The two of you could tell them, during an adults’ evening together, that the heavy demands of work and raising children and running a house don’t lend themselves to impromptu visits. You need a few days’ notice. One of you could add that it would be a big help if they sometimes took the kids out when they visited — to a museum, for instance, or for ice cream — so you could catch up on other work.

Now, your husband may be unwilling, initially, to establish this new (but totally reasonable) boundary with his parents. Many people dislike friction. In that case, tell him you will do so yourself, but it may create more antagonism that way. Still, let’s hope your husband rises to the occasion: Having a busy job does not entitle people to foist their parents onto others.

I am a senior manager at a small office that does not have a pet policy. For the past year, I have brought my dog to work with me. Clients and staff members seem to enjoy her presence. Recently, an employee I supervise told me he plans to adopt a dog and bring it to the office every day, too. Many employees own dogs and bring them in occasionally, but I am the only person who does so daily. There is potential for turning the office into a doggy day care if we extend the privilege to everyone, and potential for an unacceptable double standard if we don’t. Thoughts?


I think we may have identified the perfect author of a pet policy for your office: you! Talk to your boss about creating one. Depending on how small the office is, you can always institute a sign-up policy or a weekly rotation if the number of dogs at work becomes excessive.

The policy should make clear that owners are responsible for immunizing their pets, insuring them against any damage they do and keeping them leashed and under control. Your policy must also safeguard clients and employees who are allergic to dogs or who don’t want to deal with them. It’s still a workplace, after all.

We moved out of our longtime home several years ago. While doing a final check, my husband found the birth certificate of a stillborn child on the top shelf of my daughter’s closet. It belonged to a previous occupant and was pushed back out of sight in a way that looked intentional. I kept it because it seemed the parents did not want to be reminded of their loss. I still have it, and I’m haunted by it. I’m sure I could find its rightful owners, and their feelings may have changed. Any advice?


I have no doubt in the sincerity of your beliefs and your sensitivity, but things get pushed to the back of closets all the time. The previous occupants may have left the certificate by mistake. And I have never heard of a person forgetting the loss of a pregnancy. If you can find these parents, send the birth certificate to them with a gentle note.

My husband and I married 10 years ago, but we’ve been a couple for 20 years. (Marriage between men was not legal for the first decade of our relationship.) We’ve always celebrated our anniversary on the date we met. I have a hard time remembering dates, so I have to ask my husband to remind me when it’s coming. It’s easier for me to remember our wedding date: It was printed on invitations. But he still wants to celebrate on the date we met. What do you think?


Do you really want to involve a third party in this decision? For what it’s worth, my husband and I celebrate our anniversary on the date we met. We had about 20 of them before it was legal for us to marry under federal law. If your husband is unmoved by your difficulty in remembering dates, check out the repeating-entry feature on the calendar apps of most cellphones.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.

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