Dear Margo: One Husband, Two Sisters

My single sisters won’t leave my husband alone! Margo Howard’s adviceOne Husband, Two Sisters

Dear Margo: I have two single sisters in their 30s who text, call and e-mail my husband of five years. They contact him to cry on his shoulder about relationship issues, personal problems and various other dramas. They don’t contact me about their issues. I have asked them to stop, as their contact is inappropriate, but to no avail. My husband does not see the harm in giving them advice. I am not comfortable with this situation, and I don’t know what to say to either my husband or my sisters. What should I do about my sisters’ problems? –Ticked

Dear Tick: Maybe tell the girls to send them to me? I would be interested in why you are uncomfortable with this contact. Could it be that it rankles because you are excluded? This would be standard operating procedure in many families. Maybe their troubles all have to do with men, and a male POV is wanted. What is interesting is that your husband doesn’t mind being a shoulder to cry on, and the implication is that you think the girls are perhaps making a play for him. I think the adjustment might have to come from you, since 1) your sisters are ignoring your instructions to lay off and 2) your husband doesn’t feel it’s an imposition. –Margo, adjustably

Who Gets To Decide?

Dear Margo: I have an aunt and two cousins I’ve always cared about and enjoyed seeing. For the past six years, my aunt has been angry with my siblings, my mother and me for not being more involved with her mother (my mother’s mother). I am 28 years old and barely know this woman. She’s now a bit senile (at 82), but never really spent time with us as we were growing up. She lived several hours away and was never overly affectionate or grandmotherly.

Anyway, my aunt ended up moving her down here and is now angry with all of us for not always visiting or running errands for Grandma. She lives in a very nice retirement community and has access to almost everything she needs. My aunt hasn’t spoken to us in quite a while, and my cousins (ages 20 and 16) are following her lead. I am tired of her hostility toward us for not being more involved or not “loving” Grandma enough. (It’s hard to love someone you barely know!) I wish they would stop trying to control our actions by cutting us out of their lives.

I feel that the way I interact with Grandma is my business, and I think they should respect my decision to not pursue a “deeper” relationship with her. I guess I want to know if I should suck it up and give in to the emotional blackmail or stand my ground and have the relationship I feel appropriate with my grandmother. –PO’d yet Sad in the Midwest

Dear P.: I am wondering where your mother is in all this. After all, it’s her mother, too. In any case, I think a sit-down or a long letter is in order to the aunt who seems to be making all the decisions. You might point out that it was her choice, alone, to move Grandma, and that the retirement community sounds reliable. I would think it impossible to develop any relationship with someone who was always distant and chilly, especially now that her mind is failing. I don’t think your aunt should make a unilateral decision, assign chores and then cut people off who don’t see it her way, but there you are. Given what you say, even a repaired relationship would be strained. –Margo, regrettably


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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51 comments so far.

  1. avatar Amie Kerfos says:

    Sorry Margo-
    If hers was the family dynamic where the male POV rules, then she wouldn’t be writing to you for help. Since your sisters and spouse won’t listen to you, I would try a serious sit down, telling them all how uncomfortable it makes you. “It feels like you are making a play for my husband” and “I feel like you are enjoying my sisters attentions because you won’t stop interacting with them.” 

    If that doesn’t work, do your sisters have husbands/boyfriends? Does hubby have a brother? Maybe you should cry on their shoulders about how no one cares enough about you to respect your wishes, maybe over drinks?

  2. avatar Carol Oleary says:

    LW1: Your situation sounds like an old country western song:

    Now, ain’t I nice to your kid sister? Don’t I take her driving every night? 

    After describing the man’s outrageous behavior, the song ends, “Come and tell me why you’re leaving me.”  (It’s by the Outlaws – “Put another log on the fire” if you’d like to google the full lyrics.)

    I can definitely see why someone would be a little put out that her own sisters not only ignore her and ‘include her out’ of their discussions, on top of monopolizing her husband’s time. The real problem is with the husband, though, that he doesn’t even realize how inappropriate this is. 

  3. avatar Ellie M says:

    Hello all.  This post is very belated, so I don’t know if anyone will ever read it.  This is to all the people who accused LW2 (aka me) of being a selfish, spoiled brat and a psychopath for not visitng my grandmother.  Well, you obviously need to be made aware of the reasons I don’t care for this woman.  The main reason is her attitude towards her children and and grandchildren.  My mother was not the favorite child, so  as her children we were also treated as less than desirable members of the family.  I have maybe 9-10 memories of being around her by age 16, and few of those were pleasant.  The strongest one involves her throwing my entire family out of her condo because I set a galss down on her glass-topped coffee table, leaving a water ring (I think I was 8).  The rest involve her inciting arguements between my mother and her sister, which is exactly what she continues to do to this day.  When her husband and mother passed away, she was left with over $10 million, but instead of moving closer to her daughters and grandchildren, she moved to California, bought jewelry and fur, and did God knows what else with it, until it ran out.  Then she moved back home and complained about being poor.  My family was living in near poverty when she got her windfall, but she never offerred her help , except for when my mother asked for diaper money one time and she threw a $20 bill on the floor.  She also never called, rarely sent cards for our birthdays (and when she did she misspelled my name), and generally made us feel like we meant nothing to her.  She was cold, distant, petty, mean-spirited, and selfish, and she probably did us all a favor by not coming around.   However, as the adult, it should have been her responsibility to make the effort to be around us as children, but that never happened, and now she is paying the price.  If I live my life as she did, I wouldn’t expect my family to want to be around me in my declining years.  Also, I don’t beleive that just because someone is old means that they get a free pass for all their past behavior.  On the contrary, my paternal grandmother was a wonderful, kind, generous woman who we loved spending time with, and who made it plain that we were very important to her throughout out lives.  She died in Dec, 2010 (one of the deaths that went unacknowledged by my aunt), and we all miss her terribly.  She had had a stroke on Good Friday in 2006 which left her crippled and unable to speak for over 4 years, but my sister and I, and my brother when he could, went to visit her without fail every week at a nursing home 30-40 minutes from our homes.  I just mentioned that so people who thought we were too selfish to give up some time to visit the granmother in the letter would know that that is not the case.  Be all that as it may, I hope she is doing well, and that all her needs are met.  She is living in a much grander and costly place than most seniors do, and I hear that the care is excellent.  I just have zero desire to visit her, even to placate my aunt, because I know exactly how much I meant to her all her life.  I’d prefer to visit complete strangers than spend an hour with her.  Also, I highly doubt I will ever regret this decision, because it has been several years already and I haven’t changed my mind yet.  Sorry for the rambling post, but re-reading some of these posts moved me to reply.  Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

    • avatar greenmusic23f says:

      You are in the right here — she was abusive to you when you were a child. You have no responsibility to take care of her now — especially as she is already well cared for. Best wishes to you!


    • avatar scandia r says:

      Even though I didn’t comment when this column was originally posted, I completely saw the earmarks of a malignant narcissistic grandmother and her enabling, manipulative daughter (your aunt).  Your further comments above verify her toxic personality disorder.

      You absolutely did the right thing for yourself by making the decision to not engage in your aunt’s attempts at guilt-inducing and manipulative behavior.  You will not benefit in the least by reintroducing yourself to your grandmother to appease your aunt. She will only increase her demands of visitation and errand-running she feels you should do, and your grandmother will not care or appreciate in the least that you are there for her.  

      Having grown up with a mother who is just as selfish, abusive and lacking in empathy for anyone other than herself, I finally extracted myself from her toxic web a few years ago and never looked back.  These types cannot see beyond the end of their noses when it comes to anyone other than themselves and they will never change.  Any failing to fall in line with what they want or disagreeing with their view results in a wrath that cannot be resolved, because they don’t want to compromise and don’t ever view themselves as being wrong.

      Although it is difficult to resolve the fact they are family, that doesn’t mean that you need to be a part of their disfunctional lives because of it.  In fact, it is very healthy to recognize that you cannot lead a balanced, sane life while being enmeshed in theirs.  Your decision to avoid your aunt and grandmother is the best one you could make for your well-being.