My boyfriend and I planned to live together this summer in the town where he goes to college. I lined up a job there months ago; he was going to take classes. But I just discovered he also applied for an internship at NASA in Washington. (He made the first cut.) I’m happy for him, but also upset. If he’s not going to be at school, there’s no reason for me to be there. So, I quickly created a backup plan to do paid research at my school and work on a farm. I can also apply for a grant to cover my living expenses, but only if I commit now. My boyfriend still doesn’t know whether he got the NASA job. I was looking forward to spending the summer with him. Now, I’m not so sure. Thoughts?
I want to be gentle here. This may be an early relationship for both of you. Still, whether your boyfriend did so consciously or cluelessly, he treated you as an option — not a priority. Don’t risk your summer waiting around for him. Activate the backup plan now.
No one should pass up an exciting opportunity. (Personally, I would love to try on a spacesuit!) But if your boyfriend wants your relationship to succeed, he needs to put all his cards on the table before he agrees to plans with you, so you aren’t left in the lurch (again).
Thinking for two is not automatic, though. If you are still interested in him, talk this out. Explain how his delay in telling you about the NASA gig upended your plans and made you feel bad. Ask him to be more forthcoming with you and return the favor. That’s how we pursue personal goals without blindsiding our partners.
A Go-Between of Gift-Giving Wants Out
For birthdays for my kids and husband, my mother-in-law asks me what she should buy. I make suggestions, then she buys the gifts and sends them to our house. She asks me because my husband tells her we don’t need anything, but I know that giving us gifts is important to her. She also sends me wrapping paper and asks me to wrap and hide the gifts in advance. Then she texts me to confirm the packages have arrived. I may seem ungrateful, but how can I minimize my involvement in this? I work full time and have a gaggle of kids under 7.
Here’s what fascinates me: Two generations of your husband’s family — mother and son — have conned you into doing their work for them. This is not going to stop until you make it stop! Buying gifts for small children is a snap. And presumably your mother-in-law knows her son. If she truly needs gift ideas, suggest that she chat with the recipients about their interests. You can also point her to retailers that gift-wrap.
As for your husband, it should take about three minutes for you to explain the emotional weight of gift-giving for his mother. If he still doesn’t get it, tell him to fake it — because she’s his mother and you are handing over the job as her personal shopper to him. That leaves thank-you notes, for which I recommend refrigerator-worthy drawings.
The Trouble With Other People’s Money
We moved closer to family in Los Angeles now that we have a child. We rent. We can’t afford to buy here, and I doubt we ever will. Over the years, I have watched as friends were given large sums of money by their families to buy homes. A wealthy family friend asked me recently if we had bought a house yet. Then he asked when we were having a second kid. We can’t afford either one. I went home and cried! I don’t usually feel ashamed of my life, but as friends do better — often thanks to parental gifts — I almost don’t want to see them anymore. What should I do?
Exactly what you’re doing: Feel your feelings — even the dark, jealous ones — and try to express them. (This often defangs my distress.) It may also help you to see that, while you’re not Richie Rich, you are probably doing just fine, and your friends with wealthy parents aren’t taking anything away from you. It may even make it easier to be around them.
Now, some people object philosophically to transfers of generational wealth. But your complaint seems different: that you’re not riding that gravy train. There isn’t much we can do about that, though. If I were you, I would talk through this issue with your partner until you decide whether to accept your lives as renters in Los Angeles or to find a more affordable location that may eventually make homeownership viable for you.
A Meddlesome Mother of the Bride
My sister has fallen out with her daughter. The timing couldn’t be worse: My niece is getting married soon, and my sister has asked us — her siblings and our children — not to attend the wedding. Should we really not go? I feel caught in the middle.
Of course you feel caught in the middle! That is precisely where your sister has put you. Her request seems childish and vindictive. Steer clear of their feud, which doesn’t seem to concern you, and go to your niece’s wedding.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.