Dear Tell All: Our 25-year-old niece is dating a 33-year-old guy who's an obnoxious know-it-all. She's dumped him in the past but keeps going back to him. The guy had a steady job for 12 years and then quit and moved to Wyoming to take a temporary job at a resort. Now he's back in Wisconsin again living on unemployment and staying at his mother's house.
Three days a week he shacks up at my brother's apartment with my niece. He said he's going to collect unemployment until April when he goes back to Wyoming again for the six-month temporary job.
He criticizes people who collect unemployment, yet he's doing the same damn thing. He calls those people lazy, yet he appears to be just as lazy.
If we tell him to get lost, we'll be risking the possible loss of our niece. Do we just wait it out and hope our niece sees his true personality?
How do we deal with it in the meantime? He'll be tagging along on Thanksgiving, I'm sure, just like he did last year.
Dear Concerned: You are right to proceed cautiously in telling him to "get lost." Your niece will make relationship decisions for herself, and you'll have to go along with her decision if, as you say, you don't want to lose her.
That doesn't mean you can't drop discreet hints. If your niece values your opinion, there are subtle ways to express your displeasure. When the obnoxious boyfriend says something stupid at Thanksgiving, don't just grin and bear it. Suggest that you know it's stupid with an understated response. It's possible your niece will start to see this guy through your eyes and realize she can do better.
I could tell from the cross-outs and white-outs on your handwritten letter that you are careful about the way you put things, Concerned. If you exercise the same care in the way you put things to your niece, you might have a little bit of influence on her relationship. And in this situation, a little bit is the best you can hope for.
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.