Stuck in a Family Rut
Dear Margo: My mother just passed away, and I am the eldest of three brothers. For some odd reason, we don’t communicate often due to how our family was structured. I am not a perfect person, though I have tried to seek redemption for my past mistakes. I am the one, however, who is still perceived as having mental issues and no concept of the “real world.” Everyone is entitled to perceive and interpret the world as they will, but it seems that once people have made up their minds, they only see what they want to see. I am finding that you can’t restructure a family or avoid dysfunctional arguments.
Since the death of our mother, we’ve had some bonding, but there is still tension in the air. My question to you is: Should I just ignore them when they contact me? Whenever they do, it is just to pick a fight. How would you handle the situation? — Uncertain
Dear Un: I would not ignore an overture, but should the conversation become argumentative or confrontational, I would respond that you don’t find such exchanges constructive, and for that reason, you are going to end the call. You also might try writing a note to the brothers saying that they seem to be stuck in the past, and while you would hope for a collegial relationship, unless they can go forward without the old baggage, you are simply not interested. I do not see the advantage in your being the whipping boy in a troubled situation, especially when you are trying for civility. If the old patterns continue, pretend you are an only child. — Margo, pragmatically
Moving Too Fast
Dear Margo: A few months ago, my sister met a guy on a blind date. They hit it off. He is 30, and my sister is 25. I met him and disliked him. He wasn’t an interesting person and seemed entirely too comfortable in my sister’s apartment where I was temporarily staying. He put his bare feet up on the coffee table, which I found gross. He was so into my sister that he didn’t ask me anything about myself, which I found disrespectful. A few days later, they were “in love.”
I later found out (from our other sister, who doesn’t like him, either) that soon after they met, he got a biggish tattoo on his chest that was associated with her, and she got a small corresponding tattoo. I find this crazy. A month after they met, they got engaged. My reaction to this caught me off guard. I cried, and I’ve cried several times about it. I really don’t like him and don’t understand the rush. They had an informal engagement party and have another one planned in our hometown. I didn’t want to go. It would have required a plane trip to be there for one night. I told my sister this, but she kept asking, and eventually I just went.
Our family is close, and I find it offensive that he feels he is part of it. (They’re also shocked because this happened so fast.) He is immature and very superficial and loves shopping (which I find weird in a straight man). This is making me sad because I love my sister. I don’t want this to affect us. Soon after meeting him, she asked whether I liked him, and I was honest and said no. What is your advice? — Up in the Air
Dear Up: I don’t know what her hurry is, but I’m pretty certain she will not listen to what anybody has to say. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) Alas, I suspect your relationship with your sister will be affected, but there you are. These things happen, and family is pretty well powerless, so understand, to quote Woody Allen when he ran off with his stepdaughter, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” — Margo, rationally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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