No Need To Be Strangled by Family Ties
Dear Margo: My younger brother, “George,” and I have had a difficult relationship for years. He is highly educated, but he’s unhappy and maladjusted, still single in his late 40s, and unable to get along with colleagues, girlfriends or family members for any length of time. George is bright and arrogant with a biting, explosive temper. My husband, my sister, my mother and I have walked on eggshells around George for decades. (My mother was browbeaten for decades by my highly educated, arrogant late father and now will not stand up to my brother, either.)
Two years ago, at a holiday dinner at my mother’s house, after what I thought was gentle banter with him, George snapped at me to “shut up” in front of the whole table. That was the last straw. My husband and I left the house, leaving our preteen twins to be driven home by my sister so they would not be caught up in the fracas. We have not seen or spoken to my brother since. I refuse to invite him to my house, and he has avoided all family gatherings. He refused delivery of a birthday present I sent to him, sending me an e-mail saying, “Please leave me alone.” Despite all this, my brother wants to maintain a relationship with my kids, and I need to know what to do about it.
The problem is coming to a head because my children are having a joint confirmation party at home this summer — a very small gathering of family and friends. Do I invite my brother? –Beleaguered Sister
Dear Be: I think the answer to whether or not to invite your brother to this special occasion can be found in his e-mail to you, refusing the gift: “Please leave me alone.” His personality is his personality, and I must say your description of your late father answered a few questions. I would let your children decide whether they want a relationship with Uncle George. Given what they’ve witnessed, they will not be surprised that it cannot take place in your house. –Margo, logically
The Dilemma of Silence
Dear Margo: I have a 19-year-old cousin who’s in college. Her boyfriend is someone she met while attending school. She recently confided in me that she is pregnant. Even before she found out, she told me they were looking for an apartment to rent because she didn’t want to go home for the summer. She says her mom and stepdad are too controlling to live with.
I know they only want the best for her, and I tried telling her that. Not only has she not told her mom she is pregnant, but she requested that I not mention it to her or anyone else. Her mom and I are also close, and when she finds out, she is going to call me and ask if I knew about it. I don’t want to be dishonest and say no, but I don’t want to betray my cousin’s trust, either. –Put in the Middle
Dear Put: Not to go all fortune cookie on you, but life is choices. If your cousin confided in you with the stipulation that you not mention it to anyone, then I suggest you keep your word. Should your aunt at some point ask you if you knew, the thing to do is ‘fess up. But make it plain that you were sworn to secrecy, and you honored your cousin’s trust. Looking at the big picture, there’s nothing your aunt could do about the family “news,” so I would let things play out. This way, you are neither lying to anyone nor breaking your word. –Margo, confidentially
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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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