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updated 9/7/2012 11:29:48 AM ET 2012-09-07T15:29:48

Dr. Gilda Carle

Need a quick answer to a relationship dilemma? Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her relationship advice in TODAY.com’s “30-second therapist” series.

Q: I'm dating a guy who is fun to be with, nice, generous and very attentive. At times, he's attractive to me, but at other times, he's not. The problem is that he doesn't fit my mold. I have an education, a good job, make great money, and my life is very organized. He, on the other hand, doesn't have a good education, has an average job (but works very hard), and is extremely unorganized. How do I know if I'm settling for less than I deserve? —Am I Settling?

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Dear Am I Settling,
This guy is “fun to be with, nice, generous and very attentive.” Yet “he doesn’t fit [your status] mold.” Evolutionary psychology reasons women marry up to provide valued resources for their offspring, and “hypergamy” is an actual word in our language that describes this female striving. So when a woman defies tradition and chooses someone with “less status,” anxiety sets in.

Girl, how this dude treats you is monumental. Yet, you may be more focused on the ritual of making impressions. Instead of worrying whether you’re “settling,” reconsider your readiness to settle down. Permanence mandates the maturity to appreciate a partner’s depth, rather than how others regard him. From the looks of it, you’re not quite ready either to “settle” or to settle down. —Dr. Gilda

Q: My husband and I have been married for 6 years. When we visit his mother, she downgrades me in front of our kids, thus making me not want to visit, or for her to see the kids. Our kids are young, 6 and 4, and I don't want her filling their heads with nonsense about me. When I tell my husband what she says and does, he sides with her. He always has an excuse, and thinks I take it too hard. How can I either make my mother-in-law behave around our kids and me, or make my husband open his eyes to see what she's doing to me and the kids? —Wife of a Mama's Boy

Dear Wife,
You can't “make” your mother-in-law “behave,” or “make” your husband “open his eyes.” But you can package your messages so they’re received more receptively.

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If you continue forcing a choice between Mommy Dearest and hubby, you’ll lose.  So exit this triangle. Instead of pointing fingers, share these feelings: “Honey, when your mother said ____, I felt ____.  Now I feel uncomfortable being there with the kids. But I recognize these visits are important to you, and I want to honor that. How can we resolve this?” You have sweetly passed the problem to hubby to solve and subtly asked him to man up. If he doesn’t respond to this approach, return to me so we can devise a Plan B. —Dr. Gilda

Do you agree with Dr. Gilda’s advice? Do you have your own? Share it in the comments below.

Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Click here to send them in!

Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emeritus, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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