Ask Amy: Family wants to avoid in-laws’ drinking
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 19 years.
His brother is an alcoholic, which is a common theme in his family.
He has been unfaithful to his wife on numerous occasions.
At a family event (about six years ago), he made sexual advances toward me.
I told my husband that his brother makes me very uncomfortable and I do not want him around our kids with his level of drinking, but didn’t want to cause a huge family rift, as his wife had been put through so much already.
We are the more successful/healthy of all the siblings and are perceived as snobby.
We have kept our space for many years. We celebrate holidays without my in-laws, as they believe that we should just ignore these issues.
My husband recently decided to attend a family gathering (solo) and brought his brand-new sports car (which cost six figures).
His brother took the vehicle for a ride (drunk) without his permission. The brothers have not spoken since.
My mother-in-law is aware of these issues and spends every holiday with them and still invites us to their gatherings, despite knowing that we don’t want to attend.
We would only reconsider reconciliation if his brother was to receive treatment and be in recovery.
My husband and I have been in therapy for years working through his childhood trauma.
The family issues run deep, and he does feel lucky to have space to grow into his own person and not be enmeshed like his siblings.
My in-laws have an air about them that we are wrong and keeping the family apart, which is very hurtful to us and their granddaughters.
Why can’t they realize the importance of having an individual relationship with our family?
— Frustrated in NY
Dear Frustrated: Despite your evident and understandable frustration, the tone and content of your question reveals a strong desire to control your in-laws — to get all of them to recognize the impact of your brother-in-law’s drinking, to pull them around to accepting your perspective, and even to convince them to have “an individual relationship” with your family.
You also seem to resent the fact that they continue to invite and include you in their family events, even though you don’t want to attend.
You have made your own choices — according to your own family values and preferences.
They are doing the same.
You refuse to enable your brother-in-law’s drinking, or to even be around him if he might be drinking. That’s an understandable choice.
The next step in your own path should be to accept the messy reality of this family, without clinging to the notion that you might have the power to change their reality. Stand down. Give yourself a break. In addition to therapy, you and your husband might benefit from Al-anon meetings. (Check Al-anon.org)
Dear Amy: My friend (who is one year younger) has a habit of telling me she’s “proud” of me for doing big and small things.
I bought a house and she said she was proud of me. I said I was going out of town, and she said she was proud of me.
I heard her once tell another friend that she thought her house was “adorable.”
I can’t exactly tell if she means to belittle people or if I’m blowing it out of proportion. Thoughts?
— NOT Adorable
Dear NOT: My sense is that your friend is unaware that her comments come off as patronizing.
“I’m proud of you” may be her stand-in for “I’m happy for you.”
I’m unsure of what is so off-putting about calling someone’s house “adorable,” and in that instance you seem to be hypersensitive about your friend’s word choices.
Talk to her! Tell her, “I hope you can understand that when you say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ it feels like you are infantilizing me. I don’t think you mean it that way, but I’m letting you know that it bothers me.”
Dear Amy: I’m responding to “Hurting Grandma,” whose granddaughter was struggling with an Eating Disorder (ED).
My youngest daughter also spent some healing time at a special care facility for those with ED.
Nothing about heartache and fear can undermine love and patience and steadfast support. I know how frightening it is. This will take some time, but there’s good news, too.
My daughter has recovered, and our family has healed.
— We Are All Better Now
Dear We Are All Better: I’ve received many hopeful responses to this grandmother’s sincere concern for her granddaughter’s recovery.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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