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Carolyn Hax: Couple seems incompatible and should part ways

Dear Carolyn: We are engaged and she has a ring. I have four indoor dogs and they are Great Danes, well-behaved and more predictably glad to see me than “Alice” is. She says no wedding date until I have one dog or all outside.

Does it sound to you as if I need to take the pain and keep the dogs, or take the pain and yield to Alice? I’m 31 and Alice is 28.

– Engaged to Critical Potential Wife

“[M]ore predictably glad to see me than ‘Alice’ is” + “critical potential wife” = advice columnist wondering why you asked a question you’ve already answered.

Since I’m here, though: Your “indoor” dogs are a responsibility you chose. They are companion animals. They don’t get banished because your fiancee likes herself better than she likes your dogs.

And: Can we please drag out the whole “I like my dogs better than the nagging wife” trope from between the lines, and into the light?

I won’t defend a “critical” intimate partner and can’t defend marriage by blackmail or animal cruelty. But I don’t have to. You and Alice are apparently incompatible (the dogs are just the messengers) and at least one of you knows that. That’s enough to justify a parting of ways; no playing or assigning of roles need apply.

Find middle ground

Dear Carolyn: My brother lives in the most geographically convenient place to have family gatherings, and a house that is very comfortable for the 15 or so people who will be there for the celebration. Meals are usually complicated, meaning my brother and sister-in-law and sometimes my nieces are involved with cooking when we get there. Then we eat, and the cleanup takes at least an hour. It is always delicious, but it’s just a little much.

This year I told them that they hosted so much, I would bring the entire meal to them. I picked up a couple of pizzas and a salad kit. My sister-in-law insisted on “jazzing up” the salad, and spent at least 15 minutes adding ingredients to it. She also threw out the dressing that came with it and made her own.

I feel a little insulted that my sister-in-law insisted on messing with the salad. It’s just salad! It seemed a little snobby to me. It’s been a few weeks now and I’m not shaking the feeling that she was out of line. How can I explain to her that she hurt my feelings?

– Food Fight

How about by thanking her for keeping her cool when you promised an “entire meal” for a “celebration” and showed up with pizzas and a salad kit?

If that’s what everyone was expecting, then, great – but if you sprang it on them as an enough-of-your-fussy-food ambush, when the other 14 guests were under the impression you had offered to cook for them? Ouch.

This situation doesn’t need a blame-reckoning, though, or for either of you to feel insulted or one-upped or one-downed. It needs you both to talk to each other.

You clearly want to help, and clearly have different ideas of what family celebrations should look like. There’s relief in it for both of you if you find the middle ground between effort and results. Takeout pizza and a homemade salad, perhaps.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at washingtonpost.com.