Dear Annie: My sister, “Lois,” has been seeing “Desmond” for a year. This guy is toxic. He does absolutely nothing for her and expects everything in return. He tells her how to dress and whom she can and cannot speak to. Lois and her children (from a previous relationship) lived with Desmond until she’d had enough. She then asked to move in with me, and I welcomed her with open arms.
When Lois came here, she was sickly looking. Her skin was gray, and her eyes were sunken. After some time away from Desmond, however, she seemed to perk up, becoming her old, bubbly self.
The problem is, Lois recently has taken up with Desmond again and is lying to everyone about it. She claims that she met someone new through a dating site, but her browser history shows otherwise.
She doesn’t know that I know the truth. I keep her secret because I don’t want to cause a problem, but I am so afraid that she will go back to him and take my nephews with her. This guy should not be a role model for anyone. I also believe there may be drugs involved. If she goes back to him, I worry that my mother will die of heartbreak.
Lately, Lois has been speaking of wanting her “freedom.” I can’t understand why she would return to someone who treats her like his servant. Should I tell her I know she is lying? I don’t want to lose what’s left of our relationship.
Dear Sister: Don’t accuse Lois of lying. Instead, talk to her about her decisions. Ask, without judgment, whether she is seeing Desmond again. Sympathize with her addiction to this guy, but point out how much happier she seems without him and that her children are better off, especially if drugs are involved. You could even suggest counseling to help her make better choices. Unfortunately, if Lois is determined to go back to Desmond, there’s not much you can do. Make sure she has the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) just in case his controlling behavior escalates.
Dear Annie: My wife’s family is very tight with a buck, and it’s not because they don’t have money. When my niece needed a new electrical system installed, I pulled in a favor to get it replaced at no charge. When my brother-in-law built a home, I spent four very long weekends wiring the place. I also arranged for another family member to get a new heating system and then gave them nearly new sporting equipment for their kids.
However, when my wife wanted two very inexpensive fake goose garden statues, they required that she pay them $18. This makes me angry, and I’d rather not associate with them any more than I have to. It seems disrespectful to me and all that I’ve done for them. Of course, this is causing a problem between my wife and me, but I can’t get past it. How should I handle it?
Dear Feeling: People should reciprocate kindnesses, but that’s not always the case. You’ve been very generous with your in-laws. Feel free to stop. But please don’t force your wife to choose between you and them. Accept them as they are, and you will be less disappointed by their innate stinginess.
Dear Annie: Like “Bob,” I, too, married a woman with children. And, like him, I love them as if they were my own. The title dilemma was automatically solved by the kids. They call their father “Dad,” and I am “Pop.” When I am introduced to their friends, they start with, “This is my pop.”
I enjoy the title and the distinction. Perhaps you could suggest that Bob ask the children to call him by some other endearing family title since “Dad” seems to be too difficult.
“Pop” from Campbelltown, Pa.
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