Future in-laws google and judge father of the bride

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: I'm getting married in a year to a wonderful man. In the last few weeks, we've found ourselves in an odd position. My father is a lawyer, and my in-laws recently approached us with information about professional sanctions my father was given about eight years ago. He wasn't disbarred or even suspended; he just had to pay a fine and attend a class.

My in-laws clearly googled my parents, which is a little odd, but ultimately not a huge deal.

What's difficult is that my in-laws seem to think my father is a white-collar criminal. This situation isn't even close to that. But my in-laws keep saying stuff like, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." My in-laws told my fiance he needed to be informed of this before we got married.

My fiance doesn't really care about this issue, much to his parents' surprise. This has only ramped up their discussion of it.

How can I explain to them that this is no longer up for discussion?

Answer: Whether an issue is "up for discussion" is not something you explain. You simply discuss it or you don't.

So, next time it comes up, you spell out whatever last point you want to make about your father. For example: "Your son is not marrying my father. My father also happens to be a good man and remains a licensed attorney, and I will not stand for your speaking of him this way."

Then you change the subject. If they go back to it, you say, "This is no longer up for discussion," and leave the conversation/room. If you can't leave (moving vehicle, say), go silent until there's a new topic. That's it. It's a matter of enforcement, not phrasing.

Presumably, they use another cliche here as well to justify their persistence: that when you get married, you also marry the family. I actually hope they do, because then you or your fiance will have the perfect opportunity to point out that it cuts both ways.

And because it does: Make sure your fiance is not just willing to stand up to his parents, but also an expert at it. Their behavior does not bode well for living boundaried ever after.

Question: After talking myself out of it for many years, I recently met with a therapist a few times. Unfortunately, I picked someone who spent our sessions talking about her own life. When we occasionally got back to me, she picked the topics rather than making any effort to find out what I wanted to focus on.

I know I need to find a different professional. As someone who struggles to speak up when I'm uncomfortable, though, I'm dreading the process. Would it be weird to interview future therapists before making an appointment?

Answer: Yes, interview the therapists first, or request the first appointment as an interview. If you have a job that offers an employees' assistance program, you can use the free initial appointments as a tryout.

Awkward as it sounds, you can also ask this therapist to recommend another. "This isn't a good fit" is all the explanation you need - email or voicemail will do.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.