By Mary Lynn Bruny

As relationships become increasingly complex, more than ever people are turning to advice columns for answers. As a human whose children and marriage have survived five remodels, I feel quasi qualified to answer your challenging home-related relationship questions. This week’s questions concern boundaries and communication or the lack thereof, important parts of fulfilling or frustrating relationships.

Dear ML, My wife likes cleaning our house. For her last birthday, I gave her an expensive vacuum cleaner she has always wanted. She was beyond annoyed with me and I don’t know why. She says, “I should know,” which drives me bonkers. She buys me tools for my birthday, so how is this any different? – Grumpy in Greeley

Dear Grumpy, My favorite birthday gift was a rechargeable electric leaf blower, so I don’t see the problem here. However, your wife does, and she is choosing to slowly and continuously torture you by not telling you why. While this may be fun in moderation, I advise all people to talk directly to their partners. Instead of thinking they should be able to read your mind (which, let’s be honest, would be really bad if they could), you should clearly state your desires. If your wife thinks directly telling you what she wants for a gift is too unromantic, I would advise her to take a black Sharpie and circle items on pages in catalogs or printed web pages and leave these discreetly on your bed pillow. I have found this very subtle system of hinting to be quite effective. How do you think I got that awesome leaf blower? Good luck! ML

Dear ML, After 10 years living together, my partner still cannot seem to master some basic home-related tasks. If she cooks something, she burns it. If she washes a dish, it’s still dirty. I end up doing most everything out of frustration. Are some people really this clueless? – Suffering in Superior

Dear Suffering, Some people have not been taught how to do things. Have you communicated to your partner how to properly do these tasks? If not, simply do so. Problem solved. However if you already have, you may want to reconsider who the clueless one is in your relationship. Your partner has gotten you to do all these tasks for 10 years. Just something to ponder while cooking dinner and washing the dishes. Good luck! ML

Dear ML, Our neighbors (who are basically nice people) keep borrowing our outdoor electric tools. At first we didn’t mind – actually we offered them – but as time ticks by we’re like, “Why don’t they just buy their own?” How should we handle this? – Bristling in Boulder

Dear Bristling, Sometimes we have to establish new boundaries in a relationship. But let me ask you: Are they otherwise good neighbors? Do they sometimes give you six-packs of beer as thanks or help you in any way? For instance, do they bring in your package deliveries when you go on those hut trips? Do they occasionally mention you in a flattering way in their weekly newspaper column? If so, perhaps the situation is just fine as is. I say continue to loan them your tools, especially that one thing that’s great for cutting branches that are way high up. Actually, can they borrow it this weekend? Beer will definitely follow! Good luck! ML

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her by e-mail at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to