Dear Annie: I am a grown man in my early 30s, and I'm still having problems with my parents. My mother has always favored my older sister, even though my sister has been irresponsible her entire life. She abuses alcohol and drugs, but my mother won't acknowledge it and blames me for any altercation we have. My father is too timid to challenge her.
No matter what I have accomplished in my life, I've never been good enough. My sister, meanwhile, can be quiet one moment and screaming the next. I know it's the drugs, but my parents refuse to believe it.
The problem now is that they are treating my teenage son the same way they treat me. My sister screams at him, and my mother defends her, saying my son must somehow be provoking his aunt. My son loves his grandparents, but even he realizes it's necessary to keep his distance.
I have spoken to my parents about their treatment of my son, but nothing changes. In fact, my mother says it's my fault. It's hard to lose my family, but I have no idea how else to deal with this other than avoiding them forever. Do I keep subjecting my son and myself to this in the hope that things will change?
Dear Heartbroken: Things probably aren't going to change, so keeping your distance is best not only for you, but for your son. That doesn't necessarily mean cutting off the family entirely. Your son could learn how to cope with his difficult relatives by understanding that their behavior has nothing to do with him.
But we also will say that it may not be drugs. Your sister could be bipolar and even self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, in which case, she could benefit greatly from medical and psychiatric help. Might your parents be more willing to address this if you pose it sympathetically as a treatable, medical condition rather than an accusation of drug abuse?
Dear Annie: I am a recent widower after being married for 57 years. I have met a wonderful, warm, affectionate widow with whom I have fallen in love. However, she thinks I am just lonely and looking for a stand-in for my late wife. I cannot seem to convince her that we have entered a new chapter in our lives, and that memories should not stand in the way of our future happiness. Any thoughts?
Dear E.: You might be rushing things a bit. If you are a “recent widower,” your female friend may be right that you are lonely and confusing love with companionship. Stop trying to convince her. Instead, please allow this relationship to develop more slowly, and let her see for herself how genuine it is.
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