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DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother and his wife recently revealed that they are getting a divorce. I’m extremely close with my sister-in-law; I consider her to be one of my best friends. My brother no longer thinks it’s appropriate that we spend time together because of their separation. Is it possible to remain close with her without upsetting my brother? — Caught Up
DEAR CAUGHT UP: One thing couples often don’t realize is that when they marry, their union involves more than just the two of them. It really is a melding of two families. Especially when couples have been married for a long time, it is natural for other family members to become close to them. Your situation is not unusual; divorce is complicated. While your brother wants his break with his wife to be clean — meaning that she would be completely cut out of the family — it’s not that sim- ple. Unless the reason for their split involves some- thing heinous, dangerous or otherwise threatening to the family, you should be able to maintain a relationship with her.
Sit down with your brother and tell him that you love his soon-to-be-ex- wife and consider her family. Whatever happened between them is unfortunate, but it doesn’t change your love for her. Let him know you intend to stay connected to her; although, you should not invite her to family gatherings or make her privy to private family business. It may take some time, but if you manage the relationship so that it isn’t in your brother’s face, it should be OK.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I accidentally texted the wrong co-worker. I work in a very small office with only 25 employees; we all know each other well, and we go out for happy hours together quite a bit. Last weekend, we all went out for drinks, and one of my co-workers was being completely rude to our server. I meant to complain about her behavior to my other work colleague, but I didn’t pay close attention and texted the one I was talking about instead. I haven’t spoken to her since. What should I do? — Wrong Co-Worker
DEAR WRONG CO- WORKER: Consider it a blessing that you texted the offender, and talk to her. It is much better to tell a person to their face what you think about their behavior rather than to gossip about the person to others. You should approach the offender, apologize for sending the snarky text and tell her how you felt. Point out that you thought she was rude to the server that night and it made you uncomfortable. Admit that your intention had been to talk about the incident to your friend rather than directly to her. The text that was delivered to her turned out to be the best prompt ever because it is getting the two of you to speak directly. Use this moment to invite her to be more thoughtful and gra- cious to people who are serving her.
For yourself, consider this moment a wake-up call. You add to the prob- lem when you talk about people behind their backs. Own up to your thoughts, and address them directly. You will surely have better results.