My son (29) and my husband (his stepfather of 20 years) had a tense and unproductive argument two months ago, during which my husband refused to hear my son’s side or let him respond. Afterward my son left the house abruptly and said he wouldn’t return. My husband still focuses on the content of their conversation, rather than his behavior. My son also said that I never stood up for him with his stepfather. Our communication has dwindled to a slow trickle of texts. I have always been the peacemaker and tend to believe that things work out eventually. But my son says: Not this time! I am hurt and paralyzed with fear about how to handle this. Help!
I know it can be gut-wrenching to be estranged from people we love. Before we talk about next steps, though, let’s reframe this problem to see the opportunity it presents (and possibly reduce your fear): Your son loves you enough to be honest about his feelings and lay out the conflict as he sees it. That’s a promising start for improving your relationship!
I’m sure you meant well when you took on the role of “peacekeeper.” But your son was just a boy when you married your husband (who sounds a little arrogant and overbearing). To a child, your constant search for compromise may have felt like abandonment. Get out from between these two men.
Apologize to your son for making him feel unprotected and ask him to help you do better. Invite him to talk about episodes that hurt him and discuss how you could handle them differently. This will probably require changes in your husband’s behavior too — but you have no control over that. So, try to repair your relationship with your son first. Then suggest counseling for three of you to work on family dynamics.
Of Mice and Money
My roommate and I discovered mice in our apartment a few months ago. After two unsuccessful visits from an exterminator sent by our landlord, my roommate moved out but said she would continue paying her share of the rent if the landlord wouldn’t let us out of our lease. (Shocker: He refused.) I hired a competent exterminator and haven’t seen a mouse since. Now, my roommate has asked me to find a subletter for her. She seems unwilling or unable to do so herself. But I like living alone. How much effort should I expend to help her? It’s not my money going to waste every month.
There are a couple of ways to interpret your roommate’s behavior: She may be trying to foist her responsibility for finding a subletter onto you. Or she may be offering you the chance to replace her with a roommate you really like. It isn’t hard to produce a warm body in our bubbling rental market.
Assuming her name is on the lease (and the rodents didn’t void it), it’s odd for her to expect you to rectify this situation when you clearly benefit from her absence. The honorable thing, though, is to be straight with her: Tell her what you’re willing to do, if anything, to help her. And remind her that it’s her responsibility to find a subletter and to pay rent until she does.
I am a 95-year-old woman sharing a house with my 35-year-old grandson. We get along very well, except for one issue: marijuana. Its propagation and use are illegal where we live. But he believes the law is wrong and continues to grow and use it anyway. I am not for or against marijuana. But I am against breaking the law. He says it’s because I’m old. Has time passed me by?
Your grandson talks ageist nonsense! There are good reasons to legalize the recreational use of pot, including the economic benefits of regulating and taxing its sale, and breaking the racist pattern of selective enforcement (and punishment) of laws that prohibit its use.
Still, respecting the rule of law is an important social value. Your grandson would do better to invest some energy in legalizing marijuana than to foolishly claim that laws only matter to old people. (Young people in prison would probably disagree.)
Can’t I Just Get You a Gift?
I am vehemently opposed to Facebook friends asking for donations to charitable causes in honor of their birthdays. I get notifications from Facebook about these fund-raisers, and I feel forced to make donations so that my friends will think well of me. What can I do about this?
Your vehemence puzzles me. It can certainly be annoying to receive a stream of fund-raising appeals — often from people we barely know. But Facebook notifications are weak tea as demands go. (You can even disable them.)
Charity is important. Still, I encourage you to respect your convictions and resist peer pressure. Ignore these notifications. I doubt anyone is keeping score. And even if they are, reasonable people understand that most of us live on budgets, including for charitable gifts. Only donate if you want to and can afford it.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.