DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been fighting with my husband over everything, it seems. I am not happy, and he and I are not getting along. It is time for us to plan our annual trip to visit his family for the holidays, and I do not want to go. I don’t feel like smiling and acting like everything is fine, or being interrogated by his family about what’s wrong. I’m not filing for divorce, either. I just don’t want to pretend anymore. I want to go to therapy with my husband, but he refuses. What can I do? — At a Crossroads

DEAR AT A CROSSROADS: Sit down with your husband and tell him that you do not feel comfortable going to visit his family this year. Tell him why. Be specific and honest. Explain that you are not happy with him, and you don’t feel like pretending or explaining what’s going on. This may be a wake-up call for him about how serious you are about your marital problems.

Ask him again to go to therapy with you. Tell him you aren’t interested in getting a divorce, but you do want to figure out ways to strengthen your marriage. Ask him if he wants that, too. Standing up about not going to visit his family may be the eye-opener he needs to take you seriously.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My next-door neighbor asked to borrow chairs from me recently when she had guests coming over for a big dinner. I thought that was an odd request, but I loaned her the chairs. When she returned them, one of the seat cushions was soiled. I know it happened while the chair was at her house because I hardly ever use these chairs, and it wasn’t soiled before. I want her to have the chair cushion cleaned — or at least pay for it. How do I bring this up without causing friction? — Dirty Chair

DEAR DIRTY CHAIR: There is always a risk of damage when you lend your belongings to other people. There should also be an understanding on the other side that if someone damages something he or she borrowed, the responsibility lies with them.

Immediately speak to your neighbor about the chair. Show her the stain and tell her it wasn’t there before. Tell her that you would like for her to pay for the chair to be cleaned. Do some research to find out the cost to clean that cushion so that you can be specific as to your expectation.

It is likely that she will be somewhat embarrassed and open to paying to repair the damage. In the event that she is unwilling to do so or unwilling to admit that the stain occurred at her house, don’t fight with her. Get your chair cleaned, but do not lend anything else to her.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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