My sister is married to a great man who succeeded in a military career. He has supported her through the diagnosis of mental illness and cancer. But my sister does a lot of frustration: she stores food, feeds children’s junk (they are obese), and keeps her son at home while the father is stationed for video games. Allowed me to lose school grades by playing all day long. When someone talks to my sister remotely in a way that she finds critical, she interferes with him for days. Her husband is morally opposed to divorce, but I am worried about his happiness. To maintain a relationship with my sister, I have to pretend that everything she does is okay. Help me!
You have taken great care in cataloging your sister’s mistakes and flaws. But I don’t know a word about your efforts to support her. It’s just a concern about her husband’s happiness when your sister is having a hard time. If her husband returns home, he will be as responsible for raising children as your sister. And if he’s still deployed, she can probably use her hands.
What you don’t admit here is that many mental illnesses and cancer treatments are debilitating and exhausted. Your sister may be at stake if you try to manage them while raising a child. The last thing she needs from you is any criticism.
Instead, organize a circle of supportive friends and relatives to lift her. From time to time offer to shop for your family and cook dinner. Give your children a ride to school or help with their homework. With a more manageable load, your sister may be open to tackling the issues you raise in your letter — perhaps with the help of a therapist.
My fiancé and I had a New Year’s Eve party with a small pod of friends we often saw during the pandemic. It was a great night and even more special as we hosted it in our new home. But the next morning, he discovered that his new off-white sofa was covered with dye in his clothing. Investigation revealed that it was from a friend’s black dress. I used an upholstery cleaner, but the dye is still visible. Fortunately, there is another solution. For $ 800, you can buy three new sofa cushion covers. Is it rude to ask our friends to bear this cost?
One of the few certainty when having a party is that an accident can occur. So let me provide you with a script for a hosting accident that you might find unfair at first, but it has helped me well for years.
Call a friend and let them know what happened. With her apology and a vow that she may retire the dress, she may offer to cover your cleaning costs. (Don’t mention a failed cleaning attempt or an imminent cushion change.) Thank you for her kind offer, but refuse it. If she insists, use my mother’s effective line: “You pay me will hurt me.” That should solve the problem.
True hospitality — making friends comfortable at home — often requires shrugging accidental damage. That makes it so difficult and valuable. (Practical note: Before replacing the white cushion cover, get a quote made of some nice indoor / outdoor fabrics. It’s more durable and often stain resistant. )
My husband and I want to have a child soon. I am politically liberal and he is conservative. We are both tolerant. But we have family and friends who are right-wing conspiracy theorists. After the event in Washington, DC on January 6th, I would be more comfortable if my kids weren’t exposed to them after finding out that many of them still have radical views. Probably. How do you tell these people that you will not see my child because of their opinion?
Listen, I get the fantasy of revenge as well as the next person. (And our attacks on democracy were horrifying to see.) But you block access to children that don’t yet exist because of political views that may change over time. I’m asking about what to do. We recommend that you sort out the denials later.
For now, make sure you and your husband agree on the principles that govern the world of your future children. As long as the two are on the same page, figuring out how to deal with the extended family is a task that can be managed together.
Isn’t it “Happy Birthday”?
Due to the pandemic, his 19-year-old son stayed on the university campus for the winter vacation. He forgot my birthday and upset me more than I expected. It’s not like I expected a gift, it’s just an acknowledgment. Isn’t it a guilty journey to say something?
19 years old is old enough to understand the wounds that carelessness can cause. I should say it. “Honey, you forgot my birthday. It hurt my feelings. Would you like to remember next year? Phones and cards make a lot of sense to me.” Must do—especially if you tell him to put the date in his calendar.
If you need help with a difficult situation, SocialQ@nytimes.com, Facebook Philip Galanes, or @SocialQPhilip On Twitter.
My brother-in-law should divorce my sister. correct?
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