by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ
Question: My mother wants to give me a large gift of money, but only on the condition that I keep it a secret from my wife. She has disliked Claire from the day they met (the feeling is definitely mutual), and she's convinced that we will one day get a divorce. Should I accept the money from my mother? And if I do, should I keep the gift a secret from Claire?
Our answer: So how big's the check? Just kidding. We're sorry you're in the unhappy position of having a wife and a mother who don't care for each other. Regardless of what led the two of them to this animosity - or who, if anyone, is to blame - your mother is out of line in encouraging you to do something that shows a complete lack of respect for Claire, your marriage and yourself.
Because, make no mistake about it, what your mother is offering you is a bribe to take her side over your wife's.
If you take the money and remain silent, you'll have sold out Claire. Moreover, you'll have handed your mother the opportunity to humiliate her daughter-in-law by revealing, if and when she chooses, that you and she keep secrets - important secrets - from Claire.
In short, accept your mother's offer and you'll be taking one very large step toward that divorce your mother is so looking forward to.
What about taking the money and telling Claire? While you wouldn't be betraying your wife, you would be accepting your mother's money under false pretenses, and that's dishonorable. As underhanded as your mom is being, her machinations don't give you a pass to lie or break your word.