When to Stop Stewing and Air a Grievance
Dear Margo: My father made a comment to me the other day that hurt my feelings. I didn’t know whether or not to say anything, so I didn’t, but now I wonder if I should have. My brother is getting married next month, and while most of the family is just glad my brother is happy, we wonder whether their relationship will last because of the little time they’ve known each other. What my father said was, “Oh, well, either way, I’ll just give them the usual $$$,” and he named a dollar amount. I should mention that this is my brother’s second marriage, and I am also in my second marriage.
I didn’t know what to say because he never gave me anything toward either of my weddings, and now my feelings are hurt. I think the only reason it hurt so much is because I take care of my father a lot. He is legally blind and lives alone. My brother lives two hours away, so that leaves me to help him grocery shop, pay bills, take him to doctors’ appointments, etc. Also, when my brother does come up for a visit with family, he rarely stops by to see our father. Should I have said something? — Lola
Dear Lo: If there are no big chunks missing from this story, I would say that your hurt feelings are justified, especially since you are the child who really goes out of your way for him. I think the only way to have a continuing relationship without smoldering resentment is to tell your father of your hurt feelings. It will be a difficult conversation, but I think one worth having. He may have been totally unconscious or unaware of his inadvertent oversight and implied favoritism. His response, whatever it is, will answer your questions, and getting it off your chest will clear the air. He might even try to make it up to you. — Margo, optimistically
Easier Said than Done
Dear Margo: I have a warning for your female readers, based on personal experience. I had a good friend and co-worker who was in a bad relationship with a brilliant man who specialized in mental cruelty. My friend (I’ll call her Babs) would call me at all hours sobbing out her heartache over his latest mentally abusive behavior, and she could not see her way to either stand up to him or end the relationship. The few times she did stand up to him, he backed right down and treated her like a queen for weeks, but then went back to his old tricks (which she accepted for months at a time).
Babs was model-beautiful, smart, fun, funny, kind, considerate and successful in a normally male-dominated profession, and yet she wasted years with someone who didn’t love her but needed a constant in his life. She was (obviously) insecure enough to need that constant herself and couldn’t see that she allowed him to mistreat her. Over time, she fractured friendships and eventually lost her position at our company because she was such an emotional wreck.
Babs would probably say I was a bad friend because I could no longer listen to her heartache and provide emotional support. I couldn’t stand seeing her wasting her time with someone who didn’t care. I would urge such women to both evaluate how an unhealthy relationship is affecting all other aspects of life, and then work up the courage to move on and have a better shot at a happier life. I hope you tell your women readers to put a higher value on themselves and their emotional well-being. — E.H.S.
Dear E.: I don’t have to because you just did — and in a most sensible and thoughtful way. I would add, however, that this particular situation is one of those most often figured out by trial and error — and I would stress “error.” — Margo, concurringly
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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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