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DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two siblings. I’m close to one, and things are awkward with the other. Over the years, I have tried to keep a bond going with my sibling, but now I’m tired. Depending on her mood when I call, she can be friendly or terse. I never know what I’m going to get, and she is never accommodating of my feelings. I always have to kowtow to her. I am tired of it. My parents made us promise that we would stay connected after they passed. I think my mother knew there was a good chance that we would drift apart. But now I don’t want to put in any more work. I’m tired of getting my feelings hurt and being dissed or dismissed based on her whims. Can I walk away now even though she is my flesh and blood? — Estranged
DEAR ESTRANGED: You can change the tone of your engagement. You have to decide what you will accept and what you will not. If it is unacceptable for your sister to speak to you in a particular way, tell her plainly so that your message is crystal clear. Tell her that if she continues to disparage you, your next step will be to step back from her. You have had enough of her inappropriate, disrespectful communication with you.
After that, you have to prove that you mean what you say. If she berates you on the phone, say goodbye and hang up. If she embarrasses you in front of friends, do not spend time around her again when you are with friends. Decide what the boundaries are — and enforce them. This is true even if it means you pull back from your relationship with her. Blood or not, she does not get to diss you without consequences. I can’t imagine that your parents would have condoned that.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I was thinking about my life and the choices I have made, and I realize that I have not always been rational in my behavior. When I have wanted something, especially if it was a man, I have gone all out, regardless of anything else. In one case, I think I pestered this one guy so much that he ended up moving out of my city. I know that sounds horrible, but I think that’s what happened. I saw him a few months ago, and he was cordial but distant. In retrospect, I see how out of control I was. I want to apologize. Do you think that’s OK? I am not trying to get back with him or disrupt his life in any way. I really do think amends are called for here. — Making Amends
DEAR MAKING AMENDS: If there is a way for you to speak to this man without making a big fuss over it, go for it. Sincerely apologizing for out-of-control behavior is a good idea when you finally realize how your behavior may have affected another. It is worth it to say you are sorry for all that you did to make his life uncomfortable and that you wish him well. Leave it at that. Do not get drawn into him again. He deserves to be free of you.