Dear Alma,

I have a friend who knows I am hiring people to fix up my house, and she keeps suggesting that I hire her cousin. I have hired workers in the past and prefer to keep using them. There’s one particular project, however, that she’s really pushing her cousin to do. She visits my home often and she knows I didn’t so much as call her cousin for an estimate. It’s likely his price would be lower, but I’m simply not interested. Things like quality of work, hiring contractors, who show up on time, etc., are more important to me than saving a little money. The people I’ve hired in the past have been licensed, bonded and insured. I don’t know if that’s the case with her cousin; she’s never given me a business card or website. How do I deal with my friend? I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but this is my house.

— Signed,

Happy Homeowner

Dear Homeowner,

Congratulations on owning your own home. Notice I didn’t address you as renter, borrower, house sitter or relative needing to crash for a few weeks. You said it in your email—you’re a homeowner; you go girl!

Now, how do you tell a friend you don’t want to use her cousin, her brother, her husband, etc., for home improvements and not hurt her feelings?

Let me back up a moment. Don’t you hate that? A friend tells you about that great relative who can get the job done on the cheap. You’re like, “okay, thanks girl,” but then file it way in the back of your memory. Now every time she spots the handyman at your place with a hammer, she brings it up again. And dang, you’re like, “Okay, okay, already, I heard you the first time you mentioned it. If I wanted to use your cousin and pay him with a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack, I woulda told you.” Oh, sorry, that’s my story; let’s get back to you.

There’s no easy way to deal with this. Bottom line, truth be told, business is business. This could be one of many situations—having your car repaired, building a new website, planning a wedding. You are placed in a difficult position when hiring a family member or friend. Deciding to embark on a home improvement project is a huge decision. You definitely should go with a person or company that’s licensed, bonded and insured. What if the job isn’t completed successfully and you can’t get it resolved to your satisfaction? Then, you gotta sue her cousin. You see where I’m going?

One more time, to bring this “home” and release you from your guilt: Business is business, friendships are friendships, and its best not to blend the two. Stick to the decision you’ve made. If she brings up the subject, cheerfully and lightheartedly remind her that you two are good friends and that you want to remain that way. I’m sure she’ll get the picture. Truly good friends, even when they disagree, understand and respect each other’s decisions.

— Alma

We need more space

Dear Alma,

I read your column every week and could really use your advice. I want to move, but my husband won’t budge. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. We have money; both of us are gainfully employed making over $100,000 a year. We have a substantial savings account. We also have three children; two girls, a four year-old and seven year-old and a 10 year-old son. My husband purchased a beautiful condo before we got married and it’s in a very high-end neighborhood. Yes, it is lovely, but we need more space for our family. We have gone over this a million times and he will not move. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to end my marriage, I love my husband very much and we have a wonderful family. Do you have any suggestions that will work for all of us and keep everyone happy?

— Signed,

Ready to Move On

Dear Ready,

I could be wrong, although I doubt it, but it sounds to me that he doesn’t love you or his kids with is whole heart. Because when you do, the life, comfort and well-being of your loved ones supersedes everything and everyone. I know this is a tough pill to swallow in regards to your loving home life, but lets’ back it up a minute and review the circumstances.

You and your husband are financially stable, making enough money for your family to be more than comfortable, but he chooses to live in a constricted, unconditional, and may I say unhealthy lack of space for no reason other than, he purchased a property before you married and he doesn’t want to let the property go. Ummm, okay, I can understand the investment prospect of this, but ummm, I’m still confused. When one person in the kingdom makes all the decisions for the family and the land; that’s called a tyrant, a ruler of the domain. I say, not here, not today! Didn’t you see the Woman’s March on Washington?

As the pink powder puff parent, you’ve got to make this stop! We are no longer fanning this foolishness. Go find a house or apartment to rent, sign the lease, return home and prepare a celebration dinner. Immediate family members currently living in your condo are invited to the dinner and, said immediate family members should prepare to move to your new home. If your husband isn’t interested in relocating, you two can discuss the terms for him deciding to sleep away from his family on another day at another time.

Maybe it’s just me, but in my mind, since finances are not an issue, this is not a problem. There are agencies that will rent your property for you for a small fee. There’s the answer to what he sees as “his problem.” This is a happenstance your husband has high-jacked long enough. Your children need space to grow, stretch and learn. There’s no need for everyone to be within ear and eyeshot of each other every day. Children should not be made to witness every fuss and fart that festers between their mom and dad. This matter is for mama to fix; get on it. This unnecessary disaster of indignity has dragged on long enough. Don’t waste another minute, up your game, march girl, march!

— Alma

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.

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