Dear Annie: My husband's sister-in-law is not only annoying. She is frustrating. We were friends once and lived together in my in-laws' house. She has a son, and I have a daughter who is younger.
The first time we fought, she began shouting at me, saying that my daughter is the favorite grandchild. She moved out and, after a while, apologized. I forgave her. Then we became work colleagues when I recommended her for a position.
I don't know how it started, but she began making snide comments, saying that I brag about being smart, etc., and that I was badmouthing her. One of our co-workers pointed out that she's the one backstabbing me and not the other way around. She then told my husband that we were ganging up on her. After that, we didn't speak for a long time.
She apologized again and said we should put everything behind us. I am a forgiving person, so I befriended her. Again. Then one day, I found out she was up to her old tricks, saying nasty things about me and spreading rumors to my husband's relatives.
I can't avoid her because of family get-togethers. What should I do?
Had Enough in Tennessee
Dear Had Enough: We suspect others are aware of your sister-in-law's emotional instability, which will make it easier for you to be in her presence at family gatherings. You don't need to be chummy toward her. All that is required is that you be consistently civil and polite. Your husband will appreciate it, and you will score a lot of points with the rest of the relatives.
Dear Annie: My husband's mother recently died, and his sister is very upset with him because he listed her in the death notice as “Miss Jane Doe” instead of “Dr. Jane Doe.” (His sister has a Ph.D.)
When my husband apologized, she stated that we always have been disrespectful of her title. Apparently, she is still upset that when she was in our bridal party, she was listed in the wedding program as “Miss Jane Doe.” I told her it never occurred to me that she would want to be listed any other way. After all, my brother, an attorney, didn't have a J.D. after his name. She was also angry that our invitation to our daughter's christening said “Miss Jane Doe.” I was taught that for social invitations, one doesn't use professional titles. Am I wrong?
My husband feels that our apology should suffice, but Jane is still angry. I hate that there is friction between them when they are grieving the death of their mother. What else can we do?
Dear Frustrated: Generally, one doesn't use professional titles for social events, but the overriding etiquette rule is not to offend. Your sister-in-law wants her title used at all times, so please use it. Her mistake was allowing this to continue without registering her resentment the first time, which didn't permit you to correct it. Please tell her again that you are sincerely sorry, that it was completely unintentional, and that you promise to use her well-earned Ph.D. from now on.
Dear Annie: “Ready To Settle Down” wants a commitment from her 55-year-old boyfriend who still lives on his parents' property, uses her car, belittles her in bed, has a bad temper and hangs around with drinkers and dopers. She needs to follow my rules for dating. These guidelines make the picking and choosing a whole lot easier.
Trish's Four Rules for Dating
1. He/she must not have a criminal history.
2. He/she must be employed.
3. He/she must own his/her own car.
4. He/she cannot live with his/her mother or sleep on his/her best friend's couch.
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