DEAR CAROLYN: It really bothers me that whenever I talk to my sisters who live in other cities, they never ask about my fiancé. Obviously, they do not approve of our relationship.
I find this rude and an underhanded way of showing their disapproval and in the process insulting me. What is the best way to handle this?
DEAR MIFFED: By not being so quick to dismiss the value of asking for better treatment.
If you were to say, "When you talk to me without even mentioning my fiancé, I feel really hurt. What's going on?" you would actually be talking to your sisters, instead of assigning them opinions and actions in your mind. The full story is never as tidy as the one that starts with "Obviously ," but it usually ends better.
If you speak plainly to them, and they respond with the truth and/or an effort to ask about your fiancé more often, then that will tell you they care about your feelings.
DEAR CAROLYN: A close friend just had a major milestone birthday. She has five adult children who all live within 25 miles. Not one of them did anything special for her on her birthday. One called and one texted. She was very hurt that her children ignored this particular birthday. She always has special dinners for them on their birthdays. I don't think they realize how hurt she was. She won't tell them. As a close family friend, should I?
DEAR W.: Assuming you're close enough to at least one of these kids to give a quick call, this requires such low-key intervention that it's hard to see why you wouldn't do it.
"Hey, your mom is sad that the kids generally forgot her birthday, and I thought you'd want to know I'm acting on my own here, by the way. Your mom didn't want to say anything."
I'd sure want to know if I hurt a parent with my (in)actions, and it sounds as if you'd want to know. You also seem to understand the family well enough to make a good guess at whether this would go over well or backfire right?
If your close friend was normally casual about birthdays but has cared more lately, maybe in response to loneliness or emotional distance from her kids or twilight nostalgia, then that's all the more reason to speak up. Milestones look different to people at different stages of life, and when someone's perspective evolves, often the people who've been closest the longest are the last to notice the change.