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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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