Dear Abby: Every year for the last six years, I have hosted a family gathering at my home. Each and every year, my cousin's wife "Jodie" does everything possible to ensure that we all know she's upset about something. She'll sit on my couch as far removed from the family as possible, grumbling under her breath to her husband. Jodie never says more than four words to me (the hostess) the entire time — none of which are "thank you" — then she feigns food poisoning! (No one else gets sick.)
This has been going on longer than the six years I have hosted this event. My question is, would it be tactless of me to ask my cousin to leave his wife home next year? Would that be wrong of me? —SICK OF CODDLING HER
Dear Sick: For a person to repeatedly act the way you have described is not normal behavior. Your cousin's wife may suffer from some significant emotional problems. Is no one in your family close enough to your cousin to express concern about it?
While it would, indeed, be tactless to tell him to leave his wife home instead of bringing her to a family gathering, it might be less so to mention gently that you have noticed she doesn't enjoy herself when she visits — and that her attendance isn't compulsory. Then listen to what he has to say because it may be enlightening.
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Dear Abby: My sister "Blanche" has always depended on men to support her. She was married briefly, and after her divorce started going from one man to another. I can't count how many relationships she has been in. Her children are grown, but when they were young they had to endure their mother's lifestyle.
Blanche has just moved in with another man. She's 45, and has no job or money, but has gotten good at selling her pity story. Unfortunately, her new boyfriend, "Stanley," is an old friend of mine. Although we haven't been in contact for years, I'm concerned about his dating my sister. He's going through some hard times due to the loss of a family member. Blanche homed in on this and moved in with him to "help him grieve."
Abby, I know the damage my sister can cause. It never turns out pretty. She uses people to get what she wants, then if it turns sour, she becomes a stalker. She has refused my recommendations for counseling. I feel obligated to let Stanley's family know about Blanche's history. She's trying to prevent me from contacting him because she doesn't want her past revealed. What do you suggest? —FEARFUL SIS IN MISSOURI
Dear Fearful Sis: I strongly recommend that rather than telling Stanley's family your sister's history, you tell Stanley directly. To do otherwise would be interpreted as an underhanded attempt to break up his romance, would not be appreciated, and could only bring them closer.