Dear Margo: Compelled To Be a Doormat

Margo Howard’s advice

Compelled To Be a Doormat

Dear Margo: My girlfriend and I just broke up. Seems she was spending more time at her ex’s house than with me. This was all under the guise of “I am helping him move in.” I was left alone to fend for myself while she would stay up there with him. The last straw came on Christmas, when she came home from his house, set out dinner for me and went right back to his place. I was angry to say the least. The next day she said I needed to find an apartment, and I moved out later that day.

Although she complained that I do not trust her, she’s been gone since he bought a house two blocks away from where we lived. I am hurt, angry and devastated. We have a history together, and like a fool, I left her for another woman nine years ago, but we got back together. Most people tell me I should feel relieved that this is over, but I am still in love with her. Although I am not with her, I pay the bill for her cellphone hoping she’ll realize what she did. How can I get over this and move on? — Perplexed

Dear Perp: I’m reasonably sure she realizes what she did, so you may want to let her know the phone bills are now hers.

I have to say, you get the Good Schnook Award for 2013 — though the year is young yet. It might be payback, but nine years is a pretty long time to wait to get even. To hear she’s “helping him move in,” then staying up there, then sitting you down to Christmas dinner alone tells me you have given this woman license to walk all over you by tolerating extremely shabby treatment. If you thought nothing was going on while she “helped him move in,” I have to trot out my favorite saying on the matter: that would be like imagining that a dinosaur died, in a standing position, at the museum of natural history. The way you move on is by concentrating on her callous behavior and being grateful that you are no longer being used. — Margo, perceptively

Nothing Like Playing Favorites

Dear Margo: Growing up in a family of four girls and one boy, we girls had to “learn” how to make our brother’s life easier, and everything was all about him.

Fast-forward to the present day. Now this brother is very self-centered, and he married a woman just like him. Many times they have been invited to a sister’s home for family events and agreed to show up with a dish, and then they didn’t even bother calling when they decided not to come. We are all so tired of this self-centeredness from both of them that they’re no longer invited. I am already on their “do not talk to” list.

Now we hear from our parents: Why do you leave your brother out? They do not understand that for years and years he and his wife have been invited, yet they never show. Their world revolves around the brother and his family. Any suggestions as to how we sisters should deal with this mess? — Frustrated Totally

Dear Frus: Yes, I do have one. Pick the best writer of the sisters to explain to Mom and Dad, in a letter, why the invitations have stopped. The self-centeredness on the part of the couple from the planet “I” should be emphasized. I hope the favoritism toward the only son in a family of girls will be mentioned, seeing no reason your parents should be spared having to think about this. All the sisters should sign the letter. Regular readers will be aware of my choosing the written form for communicating tough stuff. And I hope none of you feels any guilt about this, because it is not you who misstepped. — Margo, truthfully

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


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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48 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  Yikes…how low is your self-esteem?  Text her that you are no longer paying her cell phone bill.  If the phone is on your account…tell her you are cancelling it immediately and do so.  You will get over this with time and reflection on what a jerk she is.  Continuing any connection to her, much less paying for her bills, is simply self-flagellation.  Hit yourself with the proverbial wet noodle instead!

    Letter#2:  Margo’s advice to write a letter is good although I would probably leave out the part about your parents favoring him over the rest of you because that will dilute the message that your brother and his wife have been invited on numerous occasions, told you they would come and stood you up with no notice and you all have  concluded that they would prefer to spend their holiday time apart from the family.  I don’t know if you can get the message across that the brother’s indifference to your invitations is also indifference to your parent’s happiness in a tactful way but clearly he doesn’t care to spend time with them either if he is avoiding family occasions.   If you go into old grievances about them favoring him as you grew up that is the only message they will get from the letter and will conclude that you and your sisters are just jealous and spiteful and rush to defend him even more.  So, focus on the issue at hand…*You asked why we don’t invite him…its because he never comes when we do so we have concluded he prefers to spend the holiday apart from the family and we are honoring his preference.*    

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Did you not read the part where he said he left her for another woman previously? KARMA!!

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      LW2 – I disagree, the parents should be told. This is not old grievances, this is ongoing. If they rush to defend him, so be it. He’s still out. It’s hard to defend your actions when faced with a united front.

      • avatar mmht says:

        I agree with you Carib Island Girl. Their brother’s behavior stems directly from the parents catering to his every whim and they are still doing it. I’d definitely write a letter explaining their feelings pertaining to not only their brother’s behavior but also their behavior. If they still don’t like it after reading the letter, they can stop showing up to family gatherings.

  2. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Move on.

    L #2: Take Margo’s advice. No wonder your brother turned out so self-centered (your parents’ fault; not yours). Too bad you were forced into the role of lowly female adoring The Penis. You say his wife is as self-centered as he? Sounds like they deserve each other, heh. For your parents to be truly clueless about this is beyond me. Give them a wakeup call. I’m all for helping people reap what they’ve sown in certain situations; this would be one of them. You’re also all adults now.

  3. avatar B.eadle says:

    LW2…Why bother with a letter, and why bother not inviting them? That does make you the bad guy. Just invite them and don’t be surprised if they don’t show. If they say they’ll bring a dish don’t plan on having it. Will the whole holiday be ruined if you don’t have creamed spinach?
    Then you can tell your parents that they were, indeed, invited and if your parents want to know why the “no show” they’ll have to ask your brother.

    • avatar martina says:

      This is what I would do but then I’m the queen of passive aggressive. This way the parents can’t get defensive thinking that the sisters are just ganging up on the brother.

      • avatar wendykh says:

        I really don`t get why people consider that passive aggressive. I call it behaving like a grownup and not making brother’s treatment about the LW. Invite them, if they don’t show clearly it’s their issue. Make sure there’s enough in other dishes should they not come (frankly I do this for every guest with every party). If mom and dad want to know, they can discuss the absence with brother. Passive Aggressive would be the Miss Manners approach “OH DEAR! Were you in an accident?! My heavens we were SO very worried as we knew you CERTAINLY wouldn’t simply pull a no-show, of course not…”

    • avatar mmht says:

      I understand where you are coming from and it is the easiest response, however, I think that they need to write the letter b/c at this point all of their anger about the situation stemming from childhood has built up. They might not realize it, but they are very angry at both their parents and their brother for having to cater to him their entire life. They need to express their feelings to their parents. I doubt the parents will ever understand, but I do think it would be cathartic for the sisters.

  4. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – I disagree with Margo on this one.

    This letter writer (based solely on what is written) has caused a riff where there was no need to be. She and her siblings, when early on they realized their brother wasn’t showing up nor bringing his pot luck item, they should have taken this into consideration for future get togethers.

    We all have family members that have that “UGH!” thing about them. That thing that makes you raise your hands and scream UGH! but you still love them. Why haven’t they simply sent him invites but realizing he probably wouldn’t show, make the meal they were expecting him to bring. That way no one is put out. They have the meal item he was to bring and if he doesn’t show up it isn’t a surprise and if he does show up it would be a welcome surprise. This sounds a lot like me so I can understand where he is coming from. 🙂

    I don’t know, something tells me this letter writer’s issues run far deeper than the fact he misses family gatherings without calling. The fact she threw in the shot about her parents giving him preferential treatment, screams someone still has a long way to go before claiming the label of adult. Grow up.

    Letter #1 – “How can you get over her and move on?

    Simple. Remind yourself over and over that she did to you, what you did to someone else. You said you left a relationship to be with her and now she has left your relationship to be with someone else. It’s called Karma.

    I don’t say that in a snarky or bitchy manner, I am being literal. This happened to you for a reason so learn from it. Remind yourself that what you do in life has consequences. Some not so immediate. It’s not a matter of beating up on yourself, but instead when you have those moments of thinking about her and wishing you were still together, in those moments instantly remind yourself she is gone because it was meant to be.

    You have the (what I call) “cheater gene” in you. In other words you are able to be with one person while desiring someone else. Not everyone has that gene, I know I don’t. You will have to work harder in your life to keep that in check. You will have to learn to treat people as you would want to be treated. Wouldn’t you want a woman to love you, desire you, and place all her energies on building a life with you? Well….why not afford those same attributes toward the women you are in relationships with.

    If you can’t do that be prepared to experience the angst you are feeling now, over and over and over and over………..

    • avatar KL says:

      Love your reply, Belinda. I couldn’t agree more with LW#1. What goes around comes around. JT had it right!

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      LW1 – Margo seems to have glossed over this, he’s getting what he gave. I bet he doesn’t do it again.

      • avatar KL says:

        Carib — I hope so, but I’m with Belinda here on the “cheater gene”. If he’s at all like the experience I had with an ex that had the “cheater gene”, such learning won’t come all that quickly. In my ex’s case (and what I think is true for many serial cheaters) is that they can’t truly let someone completely in. Like being truly intimate with someone freaks them out. So, they always have their foot in one camp and the other foot in another. They chase after those that reject them or keep them at a distance (like the LW1’s gf) but those that let them in, freaks them out and they go and seek an out through an affair with someone else.

        In stocks, such diversification would be wise. In monogamous relationships, it’s wholly destructive. They either need to figure out why they do such things or seek out open relationships. In my ex’s case, he’s done the same thing several times now to literally almost every gf, and yet still whines about how one of his ex’s cheated on him. The irony is so thick, but he is convinced that when he steps out, it’s somehow okay but it’s devastating when it’s done to him. And he still hasn’t learned his lesson. I hope the LW1 does.

        • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

          I hope he does too, but these two seems so immature. If it were me, I’d find all the running around exhausting!

  5. avatar Artemesia says:

    Nothing is as bad an idea as sending pompous letters of complaint within a family. They ALWAYS just lead to more conflict and defensiveness. I come from a long line of people who never learned that message. My grandfather wrote my father and mother a ridiculous letter remembered to this day as a symbol of what a jackazz he was; and then my mother didn’t learn that lesson and in her turn wrote a similar letter to my brother about him and his wife. My SIL slammed back with a letter that forever assured that that relationship would be cold as ice.

    Letters are savored, waved in people’s faces, and ‘proof’ of the writer’s bad guy status. They are also cowardly. Writing the letter Margot suggests will guarantee that the parents think of their daughters once again as the lesser members of the family and the trouble makers. The golden son will be justified in avoiding them.

    If something needs to be said, it needs to be said. ‘Mom, Dad Chuckie has been invited for years and never bothered to show up or they agree to show up with a dish and then back out at the last minute. They obviously don’t want to be at our family get togethers. You will need to take it up with them if you wonder why.’ (to make this work well you need to invite him and let him demonstrate his lack of interest)

    And if they don’t let it go then you can say ‘Why are you so surprised that they think the universe revolves around them? You treated him like the only begotten son and us like handmaidens all those years we were growing up; of course he is a self centered jerk who thinks his X doesnt stink.’

    • avatar mbachi says:

      Perfect response! Succinct and to the point. Though I doubt it will ever get through to the parents. After all, they created the monster. They probably think they did a good job. And if the parents can’t get it through their thick heads, maybe they need to be uninvited as well.

    • avatar mmht says:

      I agree that a letter may not be the best way to go about it, but I do think that they need to talk to their parents and brother about their feelings. Its clear that all 4 of them harbor resentment towards parents and brother and that’s not going to clear up until they talk it out. Their brother and parents may never understand or agree, but at least they got it off their chests.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Yup. Exactly. We have a winner on all counts.

  6. avatar Stuck In 78 says:

    LW #2: Dear Angry Sister,
    You might want to look in the mirror for a moment before landing all over your parents with a litany of complaints. Your brother may indeed be self-centered. On the other hand, your attitude may not be all that great, either. Is there a possibility that when you aren’t aware of it, your parents are rubbing your glories into his face; that they leave him with the mirror opposite view of the situation; he’s constantly told that you’re the one who is “all that” and he’s sick of hearing it? And if you are as hostile and rude toward him as your letter implies, you could be adding to the problem.
    Been There, Still Surrounded By It.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Well, except all 4 sisters say the same thing apparently.

      • avatar Lunita says:

        If that’s really the case then the brother should have brought up how he feels instead of passive-aggressively accepting invitations that he doesn’t plan to follow up on. I agree with Carib Island Girl–I have a hard time believing that all four sisters unjustifiably feel the same way toward him. I didn’t the letter to be rude or hostile at all.

  7. avatar lebucher says:

    LW#1:  Well you left her for someone else before, now she has left you for someone else.  What you can learn from this is that it HURTS to be rejected in this fashion.  In the future remember this fact, and try being kinder to others.  She may not have been able to rekindle a good enough level of trust with you since you’d dumped her once before… and so she went back to her ex.  Or some other dynamic is going on, like you just were not what she needed after all.  Pick yourself up, cancel the cell phone, and get on with your life.

    LW#2:   I do not blame you for no longer inviting the brother.  The way I look at it he forfeited his place at family get togethers after pulling the first no-show.  That is just unbelievably rude.  Since the parents are taking you to task for it, go ahead and let them know he’s stood you up repeatedly so you’ve concluded they doesn’t want to attend these functions, and therefore you are not going to put them on the spot by asking them anymore.  If they wish to know more they should ask brother.  Ball has been tossed squarely out of your court at that point.  I agree that you should not muddy the message with the childhood baggage about brother being worshipped over the girls, even though I know this often happens in male-centric family dynamics.  Your parents won’t want to hear it anyway.

    • avatar avast2006 says:

      Tell Mom that after X number of times where he was invited but simply didn’t show, you got the message that the two of them were completely uninterested, and you decided to stop bothering them with all the chatter about a party they would rather ignore.

      I disagree with Margo, however: DON’T get into “You always loved him best!” with Mom. That will stir up a heaping helping of Drama with Mama that will take years to settle out, and it will STILL be all about him. Just let him drift quietly away. (For that matter, continue to issue the invitation fully expecting him to ignore it. Less fuss all around.)

  8. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – What happens in a person’s life or childhood that causes them to be such wimpy, weak adults? (rhetorical) Slam your head in a door a couple of times. It’s free, you get the same sick thrill and it saves a lot of time.  I would tell you to get some balls but I’m sure you don’t have what it takes to feed and care for them so they’d just shrivel up and die anyway.

    LW2 – You don’t have to be your mom’s BFF but you do need to make some time for her. She’s your mom and she enjoys her daughter. Cut her some slack and make a little time for her since you’ll probably want some free babysitting in the near future /sarcasm/.

  9. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – I disagree with Margo. Don’t do a letter. Just invite your brother but keep you expectations low and don’t make any excuses. Why don’t they understand that for years and years he and his wife have been invited, yet they never show. What do they think has been going on?  If your parents need help understanding the dynamics have an honest, matter of fact conversation with them about him. You’re adults now. Have an adult conversation if/when it comes up and your parents will get to deal with it anyway they need to. 

    • avatar A R says:

      I agree, R.Scott. We’ve all had a sibling or cousin or uncle that everyone bent backwards for. We’ve all wished we could give the parent of that person the what-for in no uncertain terms (even if we shared a parent).

      But we don’t do it.

      What we do is what my FIL calls “managing the relationship”. It means that we don’t try to correct enablers on how they deal with the person. Instead we deal with the person OUR way which is not at all how those spoiled folk are accustomed to being treated. It’s not mean or negative: we just don’t sweat them, or wait for them, or put our events on hold for them. When others who cater to them look shocked, we say, “What? He was invited/knew the time/knew the day/knew the drill/had the same chance others did.”

      And we don’t try to change how their enablers interact with them because if they were capable of seeing the problem, they would have seen it already and without our help.

  10. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 and her sisters have been attending a big ol’ pity party for all their lives, it sounds like.  I fear Margo’s advice will simply ratchet this up to a long-term family rift that will serve no one.  Parents don’t need a letter signed by four daughters saying they loved him best.  How childish.  Unless I’m missing something, all the son has done is not show up for all the family gatherings .. right?  And this is “a mess”?  They must have very easy lives otherwise.  How fortunate.

    • avatar Lunita says:

      If you’re making such a comment as this, I assume your family life must be terrible and feel bad for you. It’s a wonder you have time with the bigger mess in your family to read about other people’s trivial issues.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      It is a mess bc they are drama queens. I have seen parents who treat daughters like trash & sons like gold (and vice versa). They need to see it for what it is. More of the same. Nothing will change with the letter. They can either suck it up and continue to invite him (gleefully knowing he won’t show) or they can cause trouble that will make the perceived mess even messier.
      Kathy, I would guess we are missing a few things. But you may be right that this drama is high for them. Not sure why Lunita jumped you. It was merely an observation.

  11. avatar QuietGitl says:

    LW1: Based upon your letter this appears to have been a long term relationship – or not? You were with her 9 years ago (I don’t know how long then), left her, and at some point (6 wks, 6yrs ago) got back together. It is unclear how long the ex-bf has been an ex. She may have realized that leaving him for you was an error–or she is still conflicted. You both need time on your own before you start another relationship. I firmly believe that you have time between relationships – and my guess is that neither of you have taken that time or dealt with the emotions of a breakup. She is not ready to move on. She is still “with” him. It is what it is, you can not direct or control the emotions of another. It’s the butterfly idea. Set her free, if she comes back, then you have a future together. Meanwhile you do your thing. And oh ! The phone bill is hers. You WILL NOT win her back with that, I can assure you.
    LW2: I am a bit confused. Where your parents not at these celebrations? Did they not know that bro and SIL were planned upon and just failed to show? Did they not contact your brother and ask why he didn’t appear? I am not sure if the complaint is from your brother to your parents, or initiated by your parents. If brother to parents, I would address it head on – in a conversation, not a letter. Tell brother you understand he is upset that they were not invited. However because they have failed to show so many times, without notice, you decided they did not want to participate. Say the same to your parents. Bro will still be flapping his lips (if he is) because he does not realize he is rude. To your parents you can say that you find that bro and SIL’s behavior is rude and since they taught you better, you assume they must have taught him better. I would also add that they taught you that family is very important and you do not understand this behavior – and let them try to explain it. (Don’t argue with them, just discuss it if you can do so without heat.) I would also add in that if any one I invited acted like he has, I would stopped inviting them long before I took that action with my brother…refer back to family is very important. Eventually you might change their mindset – but only if you do it very calm and matter of fact voice. I learned this in dealing with my father, who was always right. I would say, oh I never looked at it like that, I always looked at it like this. Give my points and shut up. Not always but on multiple occasions he would suddenly start spouting my viewpoint as if it was his very own and flat out deny he had ever espoused any other position. I had to laugh.

  12. avatar Janet66 says:

    To LW#1

    I feel for you. And no, you do not deserve the treatment you got from your girlfriend. I take issue with other commenters’ gleeful attacks on you, i.e. Karma! No. This is not karma. Everyone has the right to end a relationship to be with someone else. There is nothing wrong with that. However it IS wrong to lie to your live-in partner while messing around with an Ex.

    I think you should seriously consider counselling to build back your self-esteem. You need to find your pride yesterday. Please don’t let anyone – ever – treat you as disrespectfully as your girlfriend has. I think you need to concentrate on getting your confidence back and make sure you don’t let anything like this happen again. Don’t let people walk all over you. You can’t truly love someone who treats you like crap. It’s emotional attachment and it’s bad for you. Now pick yourself up and get moving into a better future with a better partner!

  13. avatar Janet66 says:


    It goes without saying – stop paying the phone bills! And if your name is on the house or you’ve been there more than a couple of years and helped paid down the mortgage, get a good lawyer fast and get what you’re owed financially. This woman has taken you for a fool. Don’t let her take your money as well.  

  14. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2 – Totally agree with Margo in every respect. My best friend worked hard to make A’s in school while her brother ditched classes to go smoke pot. When she graduated, her parents had the brother put on her cap & gown so they could take pictures to send to the relatives in the old country, since he didn’t graduate. Sad. I get the sense that this is the angle the LW is coming from, and not simply about whiny sibling rivalry.

  15. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    LW1-Cancel her phone. Don’t tell her, she’ll figure it out. With all strings cut, move ahead with your life.

    LW2-When mom and dad ask YOU why YOU have left brother & SIL out, tell them you have invited in the past and they didn’t show up, so you gave up on the invitations. When mom and dad ask subsequent sisters, the same answer should be given. Each sister should speak for themselves only when the question comes to them. It’s a lot more impressive that way, and less like ganging up.

    And no, no one should invite someone just because they are a family member. You don’t get to choose your family; why do some people seem to think you HAVE to love them? It’s nice if you do, but not a requirement of life.

  16. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    Narcissistic siblings who suck the air out of the room of every family event are no longer invited. It is hurtful to say the least to the parents but truth and reality is always the best way for all of us to grow in understanding and forgiveness. Do what works best for your family first and like a previous post, you are now all adults here. Best wishes to you.

  17. avatar Anais P says:

    On LW2: I would possibly try one thing before resorting to Margo’s idea of the letter. When preparing for the next family event, have the PARENTS do the inviting of the pampered son to whichever sister’s home the event will be held. Have the pampered son say yes to the parents, then not show. The sisters can then ask the parents: did he accept the invitation? Why then did he not show up? This will illustrate more strongly than anything what has been happening for years. Then the sisters should get together and send the parents the letter, which will then be more effective.

  18. avatar Kordell70 says:

    Dude once you break up with someone the only thing you ever need to pay an ex is child support or alimony, and even then only by court order. Shoot the only think she is realizing by you paying her bill is how much of a spineless fool you are. Just call the phone company and cancel the phone service. No need to text her about the cut off.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      If you fathered a child, you are as responsible as the mother is for it being in this world & you should have the decency to pay child support & have a relationship with said child without needing a court to tell you what the right thing is to do.
      The rest of your advice is good.

  19. avatar Francisco says:

    L1- Move on but also get yourself in therapy. You are a co-dependent and unless you deal with your co-dependent behaviors, you will get the same kind of relationship in the near future. If you cannot afford therapy, find a Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting in your community. These are free. Good luck.

  20. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) On the phone nonsense, dial C for cancel you dope! 

    LW2) By all means write to your parents and lay it all out, making it abundantly clear that it’s a new day. Sisters United are no longer at the beck and call of Brother Boy, who now can whine about exclusion all he wants.