My future wife and I are in the military. For now, our relationship is long distance. We live in separate states.
We are doing as much as we can to communicate to keep our relationship strong. In attempts to strengthen and try to test what we’ll face in our marriage, we have opened checking and savings accounts together. We agreed to save 10 percent of our checks each week to invest in our future.
The agreement was not to touch the savings and to use the checking account only for emergencies.
We agreed to keep each other accountable and responsible and so we would communicate whenever spending the money.
On separate occasions and for various reasons, she has used monies with no prior communication. The dollars and cents are not the issue, it is that the agreement was broken. It makes me retreat from the trust I have in all other areas.
We are taking a break from our relationship (my decision). She is upset at me for “auditing” her but she should be responsible enough to admit what she did and she should not have repeatedly done this. How should I react now?
— Broken Bank, Broken Trust
Your “test” worked. You have quickly uncovered a deep divide between you.
And you’re right: This spending issue probably isn’t about the dollars and cents. It is about trust, and your mutual ability to negotiate a workable solution for an issue you will face for the rest of your lives.
But this is also a test of your test.
Your fiancee’s behavior has been inappropriate. In relationships, money represents power and control. She is resisting yours, and you should acknowledge this and ask her to explain her actions and listen carefully to her response, knowing that this is not really about money.
For your relationship to survive, you would have to work together to re-engineer your test — to see if there is a practical way to achieve your financial goals so that each of you has adequate autonomy and mutual auditing capability.
The test now is to see if your relationship can survive this negotiation.
Two years ago, I married a man who is a few years older than I. He has a young child from a previous relationship. My stepson lives with us full time, and I think he’s great.
I was a stepchild myself, and I’ve worked very hard to give him a stable, loving family environment. I have no interest in having more kids and my husband doesn’t, either (he recently had a vasectomy).
This is apparently unacceptable to many people, judging from their comments. A lot of people ask me when (not if) I’m going to have kids “of my own.”
I find this really offensive. I consider my stepson to be my own, even if I didn’t give birth to him, and I don’t exactly know how to respond.
If I tell people I already have a child I consider mine, they laugh that off and say it’s not the same, which is pretty hurtful. I’m frequently told I’ll change my mind. It’s pretty frustrating.
Is my only option just to tell people I’m not interested in discussing our family choices? This seems kind of rude, and most of these folks are well-meaning friends.
— No Babies, Thanks
DEAR NO: After you’ve circumnavigated your entire social orbit, patiently explaining yourself and being dismissed in return, you should resort to the gentle and polite rebuke: “Well, you’ve made your feelings pretty clear, but I don’t really have anything else to say about this.”
I’m responding to the letter about the fourth-graders pretending they have boyfriends and girlfriends. I remember, not too long ago, playing this “dating game.”
I wouldn’t worry about these kids as long as they’re not overstepping the parents’ boundaries. When I was that age we were just testing the waters, and I remember that we grew out of it after a while.
— Nostalgic Teen
Dear teen: Thank you for sharing your perspective (much more recent than my own). This “game” gets serious soon enough.
Write to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.