Dear Margo: One Husband, Two Sisters

My single sisters won’t leave my husband alone! Margo Howard’s adviceOne Husband, Two Sisters

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 Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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51 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I am probably reading more into this than is actually the truth, but it sounds like there is a very active sibling rivalry between you and your sisters.  Also, there is no indication from your letter about how often these emails, phone calls etc occur.  If you are talking one or two calls per year then I think you are being a bit paranoid.   However, if your husband is on the internet/phone several times a week dealing with your sisters’ emotional problems then you have a legitimate complaint.   The person who can stop this, of course, is your husband.   He may feel like he is being *Sir Galahad* to your sisters but if this is a weekly or even more often situation then you need to tell him to put up the boundaries. 

    You can of course, continue to tell your sisters that their personal situations are an interference in your marriage.

    I was and still am extremely close to my sister who married 10 years before I did.  She married a very nice man.  I was a struggling single woman with lots of *drama* in my time.  My sister heard it all…her husband heard it from my sister if he knew about it at all.  I love him like a brother but I do not call him with my personal problems even after 35 years.  

    So, while I may sense a certain amount of sibling rivalry, if the sisters are interfering with the marriage then the sisters need to back off and the husband needs to abandon his Sir Galahad persona and do the same.  

    LW#2:  I had a grandmother who was put in what we call *the bin* when she became too demented to care for herself.  She was not a nice woman before she was demented and I lost affection for her many years before that happened because of how she treated my mother.  My sainted mother, did not.   I did not visit my grandmother when she was in the bin. My mother and her sister did. decision was not made because *I never really knew her*.  It was because I knew her too well. 

    You act almost offended that your aunt brought your grandmother to your geographic vicinity and put her in a care home there.  I hope you never have to find a care home for a person you love.  IF your aunt had a choice where to send your grandmother it is either because your grandmother is profoundly rich or your aunt is.  Medicare and Medicaide patients do not have a choice.  Is your mother contributing to the financial cost of your grandmother’s care?  Obviously you are not since it offends you that she is even in your neighborhood. 

    Maybe your aunt is just trying to make some peace with a family that has been estranged and wants you to get to know your grandmother, whatever her faults may have been.

    You don’t seem to have any sort of real beef with your grandmother other than you didn’t know her that well.  Its your life, do what you want.  But don’t make people who want you to connect with her the villians in the situation.  Simply tell them:  I really don’t give a flying fish about her so there!   


    • avatar Jennifer juniper says:

      That was great advice all around.  Better than Margo’s even.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Doesn’t it really depend on what the issue are that are being asked by LW1’s sisters as well as the timing?
        Are they asking for advice about the same thing again and again? Is it during obviously inconvenient times, without regard to the LW’s schedule? Are the issues inappropriate? Is the husband even qualified to help, or are they just doing it to be closer to him and to monopolize his time?
        Definite answers to those sorts of questions should determine the sisters’ intent, and whether or not the LW is being childish or has a valid concern.

        • avatar Sheri Dedmon says:

          Why should LW2 go out of her way to visit and help a grandmother that couldn’t go out of her way when LW2 was younger? It sounds like the problem was with the Grandmother, who was like my Dad’s mother– unmaternal and who believed she couldn’t be my ‘grandmother’ because my other grandmother could ‘buy me more’ stuff. I’m sorry but the Aunt is wrong for trying to force contact– she should have been forcing said contact before her Mom became ill or trying to find out why her mother couldn’t be bothered with her other grandchildren.

  2. avatar StellaBella says:

    Is your husband really handsome?  Are your sisters perhaps trying to get him?

  3. avatar Sari U says:

    LW1:  The best way to win the BS rivalry game you have going on with your sister is to not play it and go live your life. Invite hubby to go with, and stay really busy for a few months. Also, it is not out of line to ask your husband for a “call/text free week” where he doesn’t check his phone and leaves it off in the evenings when he is with you, especially with advance notice so that the number can be forwarded to a landline voice mail just in case of true emergencies. Then have a really great bunch of really close together time.
    Be prepared for a major temper tantrum directed at you from the sibs, though, the first time they want to talk and he isn’t available to be their emotional dustmop. Just be calm and firm, honestly stating that you need the time, and as his primary monogamous partner you have a right to it. Then refuse to engage any further. If they keep pressing, hang up.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Chill. My best shoulder to cry on is male, we’re both married, he’s given advice and feedback about various issues. And no, we are not “involved.” I count him as a blessing in my life and he is no threat to my husband (who does know about him).
    L #2: I agree with Margo. Your aunt sounds like a real pain.

  5. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    LW2, I think you need to see a therapist of some sort. There’s something about your letter that freaks me out. You sound almost like a sociopath. Which would make it completely understandable for your aunt and cousins to distance themselves from you.
    Look, I believe family is largely biological accident, with a handful of common genes thrown in to foster family bonds. I’m a fan of using reason and appropriate boundaries when dealing with relatives. But this is about compassion. An old woman is in failing health not too far from you – she happens to be your mother’s mother. The compassionate thing – the HUMAN and HUMANE thing – to do is visit her and spend time with her.
    If your grandmother was physically or emotionally abusive in any way to your mother or you I would understand your lack of interest in her life. Your distance would be understandable and justifiable. But you give no indication of this. Just that she didn’t really meet your requirements of a loving grandmother.
    You want a relationship with your aunt and cousins. Well, guess what! They view Grandma as part of their family and it’s a package deal.
    See a shrink and work on your attitude adjustment. Then try to repair the relationships with your cousins, aunt and even Grandma. This scenario was not created for your inconvenience – this is life. This is normal human interaction. Try it out. Of course, there’s a chance you may really be a sociopath, in which case it would all kind of be pointless.

    • avatar Lourdes Villarreal says:

      What!? I’m a licensed psychologist, and I can tell you there’s absolutely nothing from that letter that indicates the LW is a sociopath, nor that he/she needs therapy. LW could show more compassion for her grandmother, and be more sympathetic to her aunt and cousin, but there’s no sign at all of a more serious ailment from the LW’s side.
      The aunt may have a right to be mad at them, but her behaviour strikes me as manipulative and childish. I think all of them would benefit from an open talk, as the resentment from both sides of the family seem to come from poor communication and misunderstandings, and it will only keep growing if they’re not willing to even sit together for a frank talk.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      You beat me to the punch—the idea that the LW is “sociopathic” seems to be coming straight from an overly-melodramatic armchair psychiatrist.
      My own grandmother was a distant, manipulative ass throughout her life—and treated my brother and I as also-rans during holidays, birthdays and basically any time we had the misfortune to visit her. As she lay dying in the hospital, she couldn’t understand why neither of us cared to visit—we did so once or twice out of respect for my mother’s wishes. I don’t choose to focus on the fact that I got shafted in the affectionate grandparent department—it’s her loss, and not mine. I totally understand where the LW is coming from, and she has my empathy.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        I said “almost like” and yes, I do believe the LW’s complete indifference to someone who has merely been accused of being less than “grandmotherly” rather than abusive in any form is a big red flag. Her attitude would be understandable in a 20-year-old, but for someone approaching 30 the lack of empathy is pretty jarring.
        I know a lot of people who have cut toxic relatives out of their lives without regret and have done the same myself. You read your own situation into the LW’s situation, and I read MY situation into it. My own cousins committed a rather shocking act of rudeness and cruelty towards my mother at her mother’s funeral, and have since said they were proud of their actions and don’t see why it should affect their relationship with me. I had previously been very close to them, but they are not in my life in a meaningful way any longer. I’ve come to realize that over the course of my life they’ve displayed a decided lack of empathy for anyone else who isn’t in their little circle and have mainly focused on getting their own way. Their main reason for attempting to continue to have a relationship with me is because I’m useful to them. I don’t need that.
        The aunt is angry because she’s having to shoulder the hefty burden of taking care of her mother in her last years without any help from her siblings. Even if it’s a great nursing facility, that’s still a burden on her. She’s angry because her sister and niece want to deal only with the fun part of having family and don’t feel like doing the grown-up stuff. Maybe she’s seeing her sister and her sister’s kids as a bunch of users or as people who don’t have her back when it counts. In other words, maybe they’re the toxic ones.
        Now maybe the grandmother was more than ungrandmotherly. Maybe she was abusive and manipulative and all of those things. Maybe the demands are unreasonable. In that case, they’re totally justified in keeping their distance. But that hasn’t been mentioned in the letter at all.
        But is it gonna kill them to have someone in their little family sub-unit stop by and sit with an old lady who lives nearby for a half hour every once in a while? And how many errands are on the list if she’s in such a nice nursing home?
        The LW is not protesting that she doesn’t have the time or that she’s overburdened or that the grandmother is a terrible human being. The main reason appears to be that she just doesn’t want to. But the result of that choice is that it means she’s not the kind of person her aunt or her cousins want in their lives. It could be petty on their parts, but I kind of understand the feeling. My cousins really don’t care that my mother was hurt by their actions – she doesn’t signify to them. But she is important to me.

        • avatar Rain says:

          I agree with you, as I thought the writer seemed to have no normal sense of compassion or empathy for her own grandmother (“It’s all about ME”).  Maybe when she’s 40 she’ll look back with regret at having made no effort whatsoever to know her own grandmother, and for being a self-absorbed 20-something year old brat. 

  6. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Has the writer of letter 2 taken in to account the idea of what comes around goes around? Yes the grandmother lived several hours away and she wasn’t grandmotherly. What does that really mean? Did she ever try to build a relationship with her or did she just accept was done for her without comment or thanks? It takes two people to build or keep a relationship going. I am guessing that the aunt moved her mother closer out of concern as she aged. She probably had input from the rest of the family when she did it agreeing that they would help. Now that the move has taken place the only one reaching out to the grandma is the aunt and cousins. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer we all agreed to care for her and did but one sister did the minimum possible and her children never came to see their grandmother at the end. They took from mom all her life but chose not to be there for her when it mattered. This young woman is going to find that she has a very lonely future as she ages. Life isn’t about us it is about reaching out to make something positive happen.

    • avatar Carrie A says:

      I’m sorry, but when you’re talking about a grandmother and a child it is absolutely on the adult to build the relationship. Yes, when they grow up it becomes more of a two-way-street, but if the grandmother never did anything to build a relationship when the LW was little there is no reason for her to try and maintain something that was not there in the first place. I mean, should I really expect my 5 year old nephew to carry half the burden of building and maintaining a relationship with me? Of course not! At this point it’s up to me. And because my grandma cared enough to be in my life when I was little, when I grew up I visited her several times a week, brought her flowers, painted her fence, shoveled her driveway, and did whatever else she needed. When she had to move to the rest home I was there as often as possible and my Mom was there every day. That was because she cared enough to build loving relationships so when she needed us we were more than happy to be there for her. This grandmother apparently never bothered with a relationship with the LW so you can’t expect her to create one out of thin air or pretend it was ever there. Yes, what goes around comes around and the grandmother is now finding that out.

  7. avatar Tiffany says:

    LW2 – I think maybe you just need to look at this differently.  It IS emotional blackmail that your aunt is subjecting you to, which isn’t right.  My guess is that she has a (legitimate) beef with your mom because she’s been the one caring for their mother.  I’ve watched my parents take care of their aging parents and it IS a burden to bear for sure, and hard feelings between siblings in that situation is completely understandable. BUT, your aunt taking her anger out on you and your siblings isn’t right.  If you never knew your grandmother, and what you did know of her wasn’t a warm relationship,  any visits or favors you did for her would be going above and beyond what should be expected.  All that being said – since you used to be close to your aunt and cousins, and it seems you would like to be again, you might mend the relationships by telling them you would be willing to help out upon occasion for THEIR sake.  I imagine that they’ve been the ones investing all the time into taking her to the doctor, visiting her, bringing her items she can’t get at the retirement home, etc.  Both of my grandmothers were in nice retirement homes, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have needs that only caring family members can help with.  Your aunt may just need some relief from time to time, and any actions you or siblings did to help her out would be because of the relationship you had with her, not because you’re trying to fake a grandmotherly relationship with a woman you barely knew.

    • avatar LandofLove says:

      Tiffany, you make some good points. LW2 may be mistaken in thinking that the aunt and cousins are trying to force her into a relationship with the grandmother. Perhaps they’re just overwhelmed at being the sole caretakers, even if the woman is in a good nursing home. The LW doesn’t say why her own mother isn’t helping out, but it could be a tremendous assistance to the aunt and cousins if LW and her mother could offer to take on some responsibilities, for the aunt’s sake, if not for the grandmother’s.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I think that a nice compromise would be for the LW to agree to spend time with the aunt or cousins AS they care for the grandmother TOGETHER. That way she’s able to continue to nurture and surround herself with the relationships that she values, the grandmother is helped, and the burden is shouldered equally.

  8. avatar Linda Myers says:

    #2 I can understand where this writer is coming from, I do not have any memories of any affection or bond from my paternal grandmother who died when I was 19. From the letter, the writer and aunt have spent years now without communication and grandma is only partially foggy and still clear in the larger sense. As the adult you now are, make an unannounced visit to grandma, talk to her and group your feelings at this time. It could be you are right on, or she might be someone you care now to be a part of her world. Then contact your aunt and communicate exactly how you feel and will remain in regards to grandma and discuss your own relationship in the future in how you would like to connect. It took me over 30 years to have that talk with my aunt, who died a couple of years later. Coming away from the talk I had a perspective as an adult that was not seen through the eyes of a child. Whether you choose in the future to proceed differently will then be of your adult perspective. Life is short, it is up to you whether a bond can be created or not, using 28 years of limited understanding as to why as a basis for life is not always the best decision.

  9. avatar Carrie A says:

    LW #1: I have to disagree with Margo’s advice on this one. I’m pretty sure that if it was a woman who was not related to the LW texting her husband with her problems and for a shoulder to cry on the advice would have been different. Why? Just because it’s her sisters doesn’t mean one or both of them couldn’t be after her husband, especially since they leave her out of it and ignore her wishes for it to stop. What she needs to do is sit down with her husband, explain that even though he doesn’t see a problem with it she is bothered by it and if he cared about her it would stop. If he refuses she’s got bigger problems since her husband cares more about two other women than he does his wife. Besides, if they’re always latched onto her husband they’ll never find a relationship of their own.
    LW #2: I firmly believe that it’s much healthier not to have poisonous people in your life, even if you are related to them. Just because she is now old doesn’t mean she or your relationship has magically changed. I was lucky enough to have an amazing grandmother who loved unconditionally. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with and don’t let anyone force you into a relationship with her. Your aunt is wrong to do that as it rarely works out well. But also maybe sit down and really think about it and make sure you don’t have any regrets on your part when she is gone.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Others were talking about emotional blackmail in letter two, but it sounds like emotional blackmail with your advice of “if you care, you will stop”.

  10. avatar D C says:

    LW#1:  I didn’t have any sisters.  I haven’t regretted that since I was 7 years old (2 years after my 3rd brother was born — I got over sister envy).  I have heard far more people complain about their sisters than those who have wonderful relationships.  Hope it gets better.

    LW#2:  My mother’s mother was not close to us.  My mother married the wrong man, and therefore had the wrong kids.  We heard lots and lots from her about how wonderful the OTHER grandkids were… This one made cheerleader, and that one is captain of the football team… yada yada yada.  We learned pretty young that we were far from “Nanny’s” favorites. 
    It’s unfortunate that you are losing a relationship you cared about over one you don’t.  But honestly, if your aunt and cousins are treating you this way, maybe the relationship was just a one way street on your part anyway.  Sounds like it’s time to move on and focus on people that care about you as much as you do them. 

  11. avatar RL says:

    Re: LW#1 – Thank you!

  12. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Ltr # 2 I have to comments on this letter.  The grandmother was relocated to the community where her daughters were.  Even the best institutional care has to be monitored and cannot provide everything that an aging person needs.  Locating her closer to her children makes sense for the children.  Managing the care of an aged relative is stressful enough.  Having to do so long distance is to be avoided.  I know this because I have seen my parents do that for their parents and recently, it has fallen upon myself and my sibilings to do so for an aged aunt.  My aunt brings up my second point.  She always lived on the other side of the country from us and we rarely saw her. I was always in awe of her but did not have regular contact so in reality, I was a stranger to her.  A few years ago, I began calling her now and then to chat and sending cards with notes on holidays and just to say hi.  I noticed that she would always find a way to end our calls in a short period of time…someone at the door type of thing. Then she began to press me to come out to visit her and I wondered about the change in the manner.  My sister-in-law visited her while she was in her area for business.  My aunt had become very frail and, although she had a support system of friends there, she needed our help and didn’t know how to approach us after all this time.  My brother, who is retired, took on the task and was able to help her move into an assisted living situation, sell her house and other related issues.  I continued to call her, now more regularily, and was able to establish a friendship with her on an adult basis.  Even as her memory and health faded, we kept in contact with her and were richer because of it.  Now that she is gone, and I am the single aunt of my generation, I hope a few of my nieces and nephews will do the same for me as I age and become volunerable.  I will certainly make sure that I am living close to their parents to make it easy for them to help me out.  This young lady should make her own decision but, if she remains aloof, she should not be suprised if she considers it a lost opportunity when she is older. 

  13. avatar flyonthewall says:

    L#1 As someone who has sisters, my gut feeling here is that the lw is absolutely correct to feel that something is amiss.  The lw should not be left out of the loop when it comes to the personal problems being solved by lw’s hubby as it involves serious overstepping of boundaries.  It is my experience that sisters share amongst themselves first before involving a spouse.  Perhaps I may be reading to much into this but I’ve witnessed a similar situation over the years, it appears to me that the lw’s sisters are competing for the lw’s husband.  It is my humble opinion that lw needs to have a talk with hubby about boundaries and shutting down the Sir Galahad business.  The sisters should seek professional help if help is needed.

  14. avatar forreal says:

    I also disagree somewhat with Margo on LW1. Perhaps a male POV is needed – and the only man they can find is their sister’s husband, a sister who they are excluding? They never need her advice, just the male POV?? – seems unusual. It is possible that LW1 isnt helping the situation – once such dynamics set in, then the excluded one can feel powerless and might not behave in generous or mature ways. If the contact is excessive, LW1 should ask the husband to reduce it, while also making efforts to be calm when it does happen. If the contact is not excessive but the contact with the husband is more than with the wife, then perhaps she will have to ignore it and consider that her sisters are just ‘friends’ of her husband’s – and how strange is that! I’m not convinced that this is all sibling rivalry so the LW1 should suck it up – sibling rivalry?! over a husband?!!! When did that become okay? I doubt these sisters are making a play for the husband – however, they are undercutting their sister’s place as a sister and as a wife. So yes it is not their problems really that need to be fixed – it is her problem and her husband’s problem. That does not mean that the solution is to be ‘adjusting’ — although I suspect that if she cared less about the situation, there would be less payoff to the sisters. Somewhere they need not only the ‘male POV’ but the added zing that they are bypassing the ‘sister POV’… The fact that they are single and she isnt – that might be a factor. They never ask them both for advice – they are treating her like she is still single.

    • avatar Sweet Dream says:

      Agree with you forreal. The situation with LW1 is a little creepy. But I think Margo is also correct about sibling rivalry. It is possible that her sisters find hubby “very agreeable” and at the same time they like to stick it to their sister for having such a nice husband. I am in a similar situation. I have become my BIL’s – who is single – confidante. We hit it off from the start and my husband knows about his brother’s feelings and teases me about it. The difference is: BIL doesn’t call all the time to “cry” on my shoulder. He knows the boundaries and never crossed it. We are good friends first. I’m willing to bet if BIL calls once a week or more and talk to me for along time to discuss his “problems” and to get “my POV” husband will not be teasing me anymore and will consider his brother a third wheel in our marriage. The most important thing to remember is that I don’t keep secrets from my husband, BIL knows that I tell my husband everything so he can decide what he wants to tell me.

      What would Margo have said if we replace the sisters with cousins, LW’s best friends or her husband’s best female friends? Unfortunately, the only thing the LW can control is her respond to the behavior of others around her, she have to be alert at the first sign of trouble. She can’t change her husband nor her sisters.

  15. avatar GingerSpice says:

    Good grief.  It’s quite a burden to care for an elderly person.  If you want to be back in good graces with your aunt and cousins stop acting like a child.  You are 28 years old.  Would it kill you to run to Walgreens for your grandmother once or twice a month? 

  16. avatar impska says:

    LW1: I’m tempted to say she should chill out – but she knows her sisters best. If they’re the sort of sisters who would gun for her husband, then she should know. What’s more, she’s told all three of them that it bothers her, and they’ve basically all dismissed her and ignored her. Maybe they’ve done that because she’s always been a jealous drama queen, maybe not. The LW should do her best to objectively look back at her life and ask herself “Are my sisters the sort to steal my husband?” “Am I habitually jealous of them/women?” “Have I wrongly accused them of being out to get me in the past?” “Have I wrongly accused a boyfriend of cheating or being too close to another woman in the past?”
    LW2: So your aunt probably called up your mom and said she wanted to move grandma closer and your mom said “Great” or made some well-intentioned agreement to help and now your aunt and her children (who are younger than you and probably also had little connection to grandma – or did you think most 16 year olds like talking to senile old ladies?) are the only ones putting the effort in. I get that you didn’t make an agreement to do that, but your aunt assumes since HER kids are putting the effort in, you should too. I understand how you feel. My grandma was senile, and mean to boot – she also lived overseas. But if someone had moved her to my town, I think I’d still find time in my schedule to spare an afternoon every month or so to help out my family.
    This is more about your aunt than your grandma. Your aunt feels you are not helping her enough, you are not contributing to ease her burden. She may frame it by saying it’s about grandma, because she doesn’t want to sound selfish, but the truth is that she was relying on you, she’s even told you she wants you to help more, and you’ve refused.
    There may be added resentment if there’s money in the will and she’s thinking “Everyone’s going to be lining up to get their share when she dies, but not a one can be bothered to send a card for mother’s day.” And you might say that you don’t care about money and you have no expectation of money, but the truth is that you’ll cash the check when it comes, and your aunt may know details of her mother’s finances and will that you do not.
    If your aunt is important to you, then you should help her. You don’t need a deeper relationship with your grandmother. Mark her birthday on your calender and send her flowers, make sure to remember mother’s day and throw a few cards in the mail for a couple of other holidays. Mail her a newsclipping or magazine article that “she might find interesting.” Ask your aunt what the monthly chores are in relation to grandma and volunteer to take care of one. If you decide you want to go the extra mile, then visit your grandma once in awhile.

  17. avatar Dana2011 says:

    Re: LW #1

    Sorry to say, I totally disagree with Margo on this one!  There is absolutely no reason for LW#1 to adjust to anything. As Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you and allowing this situation to continue is tantamount to giving the sisters permission to treat this woman like a doormat whose feelings don’t count.

    I have a sister who’s married and I’d never dream of crying on her husband’s shoulder.  This situation is about BOUNDARIES and as every woman knows, sometimes you need to set strong boundaries to protect your marriage.  The husband’s primary commitment should be to his wife and if she’s uncomfortable with the boundary-breaking going on, he should be listening.  I wonder how much he’d appreciate it if the shoe were on the other foot?  There are way too many examples of husbands leaving their wives for their best friends, cousins and sisters, to simply assume everything is harmless and the wife is jealous. What’s the difference between this situation and an emotional affair? Not much. And this is exactly how affairs are started.

    If it were me, I’d have a very serious talk with my sisters and I’d let them know there would be consequence for continued inappropriate contact, e.g., reducing time spent together, etc.  And I’d be dragging my husband’s butt into marriage counselling to address the issue of healthy boundaries.  This entire scenario is wrong, wrong, wrong!

  18. avatar ann penn says:

    LW2 – You grew up without a relationship with your grandmother who was not geographically close.  IMO that is your parents fault; it was their responsibility to see that their children had time with the grandparents (we did this with our own children and their grandparents who lived several hundred miles away; our adult children are now very grateful for this.  They have cousins who really never knew said grandparents – a loss IMO, for both generations).  Years ago there was no internet, no inexpensive LD phone.  Your grandmother may have felt if you wanted to know her she would hear from you (letters?).
    Now your grandmother is close enough for you to at least get to know her well enough to determine wether or not you and she have common ground besides genetics.  Yes, she is old and a bit senile, but I bet she can share with you a lot of family history you may be grateful for in the future.
    What have you got to lose in starting a relationship?  If it doesn’t work out, at least you would have tried.  Otherwise you have no idea what a blessing you may be missing, thinking of it only as a burden.

  19. avatar Justme says:

    I am the youngest child and all older siblings are female. So it does not seem strange to me to have female friends, and even ones who ask advice. I found though, that some female friends sometimes made me a “hero.” It was flattering, but if I was attached, it was also dangerous. I was told how perceptive I was, and how my advice was invaluable, and how lucky my Significant Other was to have such a cute, wise and faithful guy. It was a heck of an ego boost; I felt valued, important. The problem occurred when a woman turned that corner of “Ya know, I wish I could find a guy like you,” to “I wish you could be my guy”. One of the big red flags for this is when they start calling all the time for advice or help, especially when the answers seemed quite obvious, and then gushed about my “great” advice. The first time it happened after I was married, it didn’t click till I was invited out, but without my wife. When I declined, my friend seemed to be crestfallen. She sorta withdrew after that, and friends later confirmed that she had developed a crush on me after her most recent relationship had ended.

    If LW#1 sisters are calling constantly, asking advice on everyday or simple problems, and then making her husband into a “hero” for his “wise” advice, then yes, there might be reason for her to be concerned. To alter an old saying “The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his ego.”

  20. avatar TreeDweller says:

    I tend to be cynical about family dynamics, but decades of experience have shown me that every family has at least one of the following:

    1.  The “What’s Yours Is Mine” Sibling.  Thinking back, did your sisters consider your new toys, your make-up, your clothes, your driving privileges, your degree of popularity, and your friends to be family (as in their) property?  If this is true, they are not going to change.  One thing I found to work is to get involved.  Ask your husband, “Did you hear from Sis today?  What did she say?  What did you tell her?”  Be ever so much more interested than your husband is.  Be pro-active in getting in touch with your sisters and discussing their problems.  This way, they will come to realize that you and your husband are a package.  Another tactic is to find your own (male) confident, and if your husband is uncomfortable with that, widen your eyes and say, “I thought that was what we were doing.  You are Sis’s advisor, and I could come to you with my problems, but, much as I love you, dear, I don’t think you always give very good advice.”

    2.  The Self-Appointed Martyr.  This is the role being played by PO’s aunt.  Again, there is one in every family, sometimes several, and then there are some interesting competitions.  Her pointed resentment over the so-called lack of your involvement is not so much resentment as it is calling attention to her own self-sacrifice.  Make a point of saying to everyone who will listen how wonderful your aunt and cousins are, how great a sacrifice they have made, and how much you admire them.  Send your grandmother flowers on her birthday.  Feel fine about being true to your own feelings, because no amount of effort on your part will satisfy the true Martyr.

    Yes, I know I am cynical.  Some might even say manipulative.  I prefer to think of myself as realistic and pro-active.

    • avatar amw says:

      You are right on the money with your advice! Well said!

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      So, she should actively seek a male confidant in order to make her husband jealous?  This is the advice.  By the way, there is no indication that the husband views the sisters as a confidant.  They call him for advice. She did not say that he goes to them.  I would suggest that there is a big difference.

      • avatar amw says:

        The point is if the tables were turned, he would probably feel uncomfortable as well.

        As I’m sure you would if you were in that situation.

        There is plenty of indication that the sisters view the husband as a confidant. They refuse to speak to their sister about their problems and they refuse to stop talking to her husband even when she’s politely asked them to stop. Give me a break, there are red flags all over this one!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Actually, you’re exactly right on both counts.

  21. avatar ebbs says:

    LW#2 says that she is 28 years old, but her letter sounds like an immature 16.  Her principal complaint is that her cousins don’t give her the gift of their companionship any more. It seems the cousins are choosing to have what they consider to be “an appropriate relationship” with her—and that they have decided this after observing how her character has developed in adulthood.  She wants others to accept, and even approve of, her choices. She could be using this time to get to know a lonely old lady, who may wish very much to have lived near enough to know her better, but instead she resents even knowing that her grandmother is nearby. What goes around is merely coming around to her a little earlier than it sometimes does.

  22. avatar amw says:

    LW1: Margo, I’m sorry, I have to disagree. I don’t think it is appropriate whatsoever that the LW’s sisters are constantly calling her husband for advice and never once involving her.

    There are obviously other issues going on considering the sisters blatantly ignored their sister’s requests to “cool it” I wouldn’t be surprised if the darling sibs had ulterior motives.

    As for Dr Hubby, I’m sure the attention is flattering to the ego. For the sake of his marriage, he needs to set his vanity aside and not be so available.

    Just because they’re sisters doesn’t mean they aren’t jealous and fantasizing about getting what sis has. Trust me, one of mine has exhibited this behavior ever since I can remember.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      I did not see constantly nor an indication that they were calling the husband on a frequent basis.  I only saw that the wife is complaining because they DO call him when they have problems.

      • avatar amw says:

        I’m sorry, but if they weren’t calling constantly, I seriously doubt the LW would have had a reason to write in for advice.

        If it were occasional, such as something that he specialized in that their sister knew little or nothing about, it would make sense.

        This one smells fishy to me.

  23. avatar Lindsey M says:

    LW #1 — I too disagree with Margo on this.  If the sisters had a good relationship, I can totally see this dynamic being fine. But if they don’t, it can be a huge issue.  I definitely think there is some sibling rivalry going on — the sister’s competing for male attention (I bet they all competed for Dad’s attention and now they’re doing the same thing with the LW’s husband).
    My sister and I don’t have a good relationship — much of this sibling rivalry still going on on her side and she did very similar things with my fiance.  She’d call him up and ask him advice usually on family situations.  She didn’t need a male POV — she had her own husband.  At first, he would talk with her because to him it seemed normal — as his sisters and his family don’t have this toxic dynamic (I speak regularly with them and it’s very warm and familial).  My sister used things they would talk about and try and twist them around in family matters, most often against me (even Scott agrees me…).  She undoubtedly was trying to drive a wedge between us — asking him to keep certain things confidential just between the two of them, causing a clash of loyalties for him.
    After talking things out, he came to realize that my sister wasn’t genuine in wanting such “advice” and was just using him to hurt me and try to break us up.  Not because she wanted him per se, but just because she’s a crappy person, and as others pointed, was jealous of our relationship (she said he was too handsome for me — as she was the prettier one between the two of us, she should have the more handsome husband — her poor husband!).
    So LW #1 if something feels amiss to you, it probably is.  I don’t think this sort of interaction is inherently inappropriate, but can be depending on the people and the circumstances.  If your sisters want a male POV, tell them to find their own friend or husband!

    • avatar amw says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how awful sibling rivalry can be even when all siblings involved are adults. It’s ridiculous and pathetic.

      I’m glad your fiance had the common sense to see through her nonsense. Hopefully LW1’s husband will do the same!

      • avatar Lindsey M says:

        amw – Yeah, I agree.  We’ve got two older brothers too and it seems like the three of us older ones have been able to let go of any left over sibling rivalry/teenage issues in the past and move on to healthy, adult-sibling relationships.  Unfortunately my little sister can’t seem to let things go.  It wasn’t until she started some of the same antics in with my brother’s wives that they were able to see her toxic dynamic too (it was like she didn’t like our brothers prioritizing their wives over her as “head female” or something).  Shoot, it took me a long time to recognize it as I gave her the benefit of the doubt for years.  It wasn’t until this issue with my own fiance that I finally saw it clearly.
        Of course, to this day, she denies it and says she’s just trying to be family-minded by including everyone in discussions.  Luckily, most have seen her as a person that lives to drive drama and have been able to limit such interactions accordingly when she starts in on any of her “mean girl” tactics.

  24. avatar TreeDweller says:

    StateofLove, I didn’t mean she should try to make the husband jealous.  And you are very probably right, although if the husband does NOT respond, why would the LW be writing to Margo?  And if the husband’s first response was a nothing or a shrug, that implies that the sisters have asked for his “help” much more than once.  As I said, I tend to lean toward the cynical and to DO rather than ponder and fret.  I would always do something rather than nothing. 

  25. avatar carol grzonka says:

     lw is claiming that her aunt, who she has felt close to and enjoyed spending time with has attempted to get some help with the mother who is in a nursing home. one thing caregivers who are becoming overwhelmed are encouraged to do is ASK for help. i guess lw only considered the relationship worthwhile as long as it made no req’ts of her. how very childish!!! 
    i have always felt that the measure of how we treat the needful indicates a lot of our worth as a people. lw, you have a lot of growing to do.  compassion for your aunt, if not for your grandmother, should drive you to be more generous.

  26. avatar Amie Kerfos says:

    Sorry Margo-
    If hers was the family dynamic where the male POV rules, then she wouldn’t be writing to you for help. Since your sisters and spouse won’t listen to you, I would try a serious sit down, telling them all how uncomfortable it makes you. “It feels like you are making a play for my husband” and “I feel like you are enjoying my sisters attentions because you won’t stop interacting with them.” 

    If that doesn’t work, do your sisters have husbands/boyfriends? Does hubby have a brother? Maybe you should cry on their shoulders about how no one cares enough about you to respect your wishes, maybe over drinks?

  27. avatar Carol Oleary says:

    LW1: Your situation sounds like an old country western song:

    Now, ain’t I nice to your kid sister? Don’t I take her driving every night? 

    After describing the man’s outrageous behavior, the song ends, “Come and tell me why you’re leaving me.”  (It’s by the Outlaws – “Put another log on the fire” if you’d like to google the full lyrics.)

    I can definitely see why someone would be a little put out that her own sisters not only ignore her and ‘include her out’ of their discussions, on top of monopolizing her husband’s time. The real problem is with the husband, though, that he doesn’t even realize how inappropriate this is. 

  28. avatar Ellie M says:

    Hello all.  This post is very belated, so I don’t know if anyone will ever read it.  This is to all the people who accused LW2 (aka me) of being a selfish, spoiled brat and a psychopath for not visitng my grandmother.  Well, you obviously need to be made aware of the reasons I don’t care for this woman.  The main reason is her attitude towards her children and and grandchildren.  My mother was not the favorite child, so  as her children we were also treated as less than desirable members of the family.  I have maybe 9-10 memories of being around her by age 16, and few of those were pleasant.  The strongest one involves her throwing my entire family out of her condo because I set a galss down on her glass-topped coffee table, leaving a water ring (I think I was 8).  The rest involve her inciting arguements between my mother and her sister, which is exactly what she continues to do to this day.  When her husband and mother passed away, she was left with over $10 million, but instead of moving closer to her daughters and grandchildren, she moved to California, bought jewelry and fur, and did God knows what else with it, until it ran out.  Then she moved back home and complained about being poor.  My family was living in near poverty when she got her windfall, but she never offerred her help , except for when my mother asked for diaper money one time and she threw a $20 bill on the floor.  She also never called, rarely sent cards for our birthdays (and when she did she misspelled my name), and generally made us feel like we meant nothing to her.  She was cold, distant, petty, mean-spirited, and selfish, and she probably did us all a favor by not coming around.   However, as the adult, it should have been her responsibility to make the effort to be around us as children, but that never happened, and now she is paying the price.  If I live my life as she did, I wouldn’t expect my family to want to be around me in my declining years.  Also, I don’t beleive that just because someone is old means that they get a free pass for all their past behavior.  On the contrary, my paternal grandmother was a wonderful, kind, generous woman who we loved spending time with, and who made it plain that we were very important to her throughout out lives.  She died in Dec, 2010 (one of the deaths that went unacknowledged by my aunt), and we all miss her terribly.  She had had a stroke on Good Friday in 2006 which left her crippled and unable to speak for over 4 years, but my sister and I, and my brother when he could, went to visit her without fail every week at a nursing home 30-40 minutes from our homes.  I just mentioned that so people who thought we were too selfish to give up some time to visit the granmother in the letter would know that that is not the case.  Be all that as it may, I hope she is doing well, and that all her needs are met.  She is living in a much grander and costly place than most seniors do, and I hear that the care is excellent.  I just have zero desire to visit her, even to placate my aunt, because I know exactly how much I meant to her all her life.  I’d prefer to visit complete strangers than spend an hour with her.  Also, I highly doubt I will ever regret this decision, because it has been several years already and I haven’t changed my mind yet.  Sorry for the rambling post, but re-reading some of these posts moved me to reply.  Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

    • avatar greenmusic23f says:

      You are in the right here — she was abusive to you when you were a child. You have no responsibility to take care of her now — especially as she is already well cared for. Best wishes to you!


    • avatar scandia r says:

      Even though I didn’t comment when this column was originally posted, I completely saw the earmarks of a malignant narcissistic grandmother and her enabling, manipulative daughter (your aunt).  Your further comments above verify her toxic personality disorder.

      You absolutely did the right thing for yourself by making the decision to not engage in your aunt’s attempts at guilt-inducing and manipulative behavior.  You will not benefit in the least by reintroducing yourself to your grandmother to appease your aunt. She will only increase her demands of visitation and errand-running she feels you should do, and your grandmother will not care or appreciate in the least that you are there for her.  

      Having grown up with a mother who is just as selfish, abusive and lacking in empathy for anyone other than herself, I finally extracted myself from her toxic web a few years ago and never looked back.  These types cannot see beyond the end of their noses when it comes to anyone other than themselves and they will never change.  Any failing to fall in line with what they want or disagreeing with their view results in a wrath that cannot be resolved, because they don’t want to compromise and don’t ever view themselves as being wrong.

      Although it is difficult to resolve the fact they are family, that doesn’t mean that you need to be a part of their disfunctional lives because of it.  In fact, it is very healthy to recognize that you cannot lead a balanced, sane life while being enmeshed in theirs.  Your decision to avoid your aunt and grandmother is the best one you could make for your well-being.