Dear Annie:. Shortly after I met my mother-in-law, she sat me down, showed me her wallet and told me that she always kept a “hundred-dollar bill” in the little outside pocket, as well as a blank check folded up inside one of the credit card slots. She said she did this just in case she got mugged in big ’ol Houston.
She sounded like a smart lady, and I was tempted to do the same, but she was too keen every time we visited to see my wallet. She was grooming me so she could steal from me!
I began observing better hygiene with my bags and used a little lock on my purse, just when we visited her. The gloves came off very quickly when my mother-in-law couldn’t get into my bag for swag. She began tripping me and hitting me “accidentally.” My husband and I have much more to lose to identity theft now, so I had to quit visiting.
— Suspicious Daughter-in-Law
Dear Daughter-in-Law: Your mother-in-law sounds like a con artist. You were smart to trust your instincts and lock your purse. Keeping a distance from her is wise; however, you should have a frank conversation with your husband about encouraging his mother to seek professional counseling for her stealing before she ends up in jail.
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Dear Annie: You are often asked questions about telling a person the truth, changing the subject or pursuing other forms of avoidance. Here is what I try to do, as best as possible, following the “five levels of truth-telling.”
First, tell the truth to yourself about yourself. Second, tell the truth about yourself to another. Third, tell the truth about another to yourself. Fourth, tell the truth about another to the other. Fifth, tell the truth about everything to everybody. This way, you don’t deprive another of how they would choose to react if they knew all the facts.
I just wanted to share this with your readers, for what this is worth.
— Tell the Truth
Dear Tell the Truth: These are great suggestions. The best part is that this system of truth-telling has you always being honest with yourself first.
Being aware of your strengths and shortcomings is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and to the people around you, especially the ones you love.
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Dear Annie: Several days ago, you printed a letter from a person who was worried about becoming 40. She was concerned about the way her life was going.
I didn’t have trouble with 40. My problem was with turning 30.
I had been married for five years and had two children. I realized my marriage had been a mistake. I chose to stay because the children were small, and I felt it would be hard to find a job and child care. I decided to wait and see what would happen. The marriage lasted 16 years.
If I had it to do over again, I would not have married. At least not to this man.
— Older and Wiser
Dear Older and Wiser: I am sorry that your marriage didn’t work out. The blessing in all of this is the two children that you had as a result of your marriage. May you find happiness.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.