“My Mother-In-Law Offered Her Engagement Ring, But I Refused”

I was offered an engagement ring as a family heirloom from my mother-in-law. Her husband has recently passed away, but she has already given me money and, when she offered me the ring, I was embarrassed and refused the ring, telling her to pass it on to the granddaughters instead. Now I think I have upset her, which I did not mean to do. The engagement ring was her mother’s along with two other rings from which she wanted me to pick one. Do I change my mind and accept the ring and tell her I thought it was too much? — Not An Actual Heir

What an honor to be offered your mother-in-law’s engagement ring! Please, for the sake of her feelings and your relationship with her, sit down and talk with her. Tell her how touched — and surprised! — you were that she offered you the family heirloom when you aren’t a blood relative, and that you feel especially lucky to have a loving mother-in-law like her. Ask her if she is sure she wants you to have the engagement ring — if she’s sure she’s even ready to part with it — and whether she has any thoughts about whom it should be left to when you die. Maybe she hadn’t thought that far ahead yet and she would prefer the ring be passed down through a direct blood line.

If you still feel uncomfortable taking/wearing the engagement ring, even after discussing whom you could pass it down to, then suggest you be the “safe-keeper” of it — either now or after your MIL dies — and that you will make sure it is kept in the family. Then tell your MIL you would be honored to choose one of the two other rings she had set aside for you and will be happy to have something tangible to always remember her by.

My boyfriend and I started dating two years ago. We’re both in our 40s, we both have children, and he has lived with his mother since his divorce five years ago (his father died 12 years ago). When we first started dating, he told me right away that he lives with his mother since he could not afford to live on his own on top of paying child support.

For the last year, he has not had to pay child support and currently shows no interest in leaving his mother. We have discussed his moving into my home, which I own, but he cites our normal relationship fighting as an excuse not to leave. We do argue, but it’s always about him and his mother’s relationship. It bothers me that she is more of a spouse to him than I am. When we do discuss moving in together — which is not often — he says he is a bit scared that things will not work out. Please share your thoughts. — Competing With His Mom

If, after two years, your boyfriend is scared that things “will not work out” between you and he won’t even entertain the idea of moving out of his mother’s home after five years with her, then it’s clear he has no interest in moving your relationship forward. He’s comfortable exactly where he is — being taken care of by his mother while enjoying occasional companionship with you. He’s not looking for a spouse. If you are — or if you’re looking for a grown-up with whom to share a grown-up relationship, you should MOA.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Monkeysmommy says:

    LW1- I am so glad to see you refused because you were overwhelmed or thought it too generous, not because of aesthetic reasons. Talk to her! I bet she will understand and reassure you. Saying nothing will make her think you either don’t like it or think you are too good for her jewelry.

    LW2- MOA. He’s a loser.

  2. LW1, I wish we had more info on your relationship with your MIL and your family setup. If you’ve been married for a long time and/or have kids with your husband, then you are part of the family heirs and maybe she wants you to have the ring and pass the ring on to your kids. Or maybe if your husband is the oldest child, she thinks that’s where the ring should go. Or maybe she doesn’t really see it as a major heirloom.
    Definitely talk to her, ASAP and tell her that you are honored and would love the ring but have reservations because it is a family heirloom. You two can work out together what should happen to it and whether you are a good temporary or permanent steward of the ring based on her wishes.

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