Dear Amy: There is a lot of animosity and competitiveness between my sister and me. I don’t trust her with my feelings because I always get hurt. I’ve always received good grades, I financially support myself, and have a stable job. My parents have never had to worry about me. However, she is always demanding their attention (and I really don’t like attention) and I have started feeling invisible.
My sister recently had a baby girl, the first grandchild. She never sends me pictures but sends them to others, hasn’t invited me to see my niece, and phases me out from the rest of the family. None of this is surprising to me – I actually expected it.
But what is bothering me is that my parents are phasing me out, too. They send me a text every now and then to see how I’m doing, but they never visit me (I live eight hours from where they live).
I am visiting their beach house for a short stay. I tried to plan the trip around their availability, but they are always busy. When I asked them if they would be around, they said they are going to visit my sister. We haven’t seen one another since Christmas, and my feelings are hurt that they aren’t making an effort to see me. I didn’t realize I’d become so irrelevant when my sister had her baby.
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I thought about talking with them about it, but then, how will I know if their response is genuine, or just something they have to do to make me happy?
Am I being selfish?
Dear Upset: You aren’t being selfish to want to have a relationship with your parents. The trick is how to have that relationship when you feel so alienated.
It is every family member’s right and responsibility to respectfully express their honest feelings, regardless of what the response might be. I suggest you do this with your parents, rather than let this continue to fester. You say that you don’t really like attention, and so this sets up a conflict; if you don’t like attention, then how are you to get it when you do want it? They may read your independence as a lack of interest.
You should tell your parents that you understand they are busy, but that you really want them to be in your life in a more active way. Ask them if there are things you could do differently to make this possible, and ask them to accommodate your modest needs, too. I don’t think you should frame this in a way that calls their relationship with your needier sister into question, but simply ask for what you want.
You should also attempt to have a relationship with your young niece, even if your sister makes this extra-challenging.
Dear Amy: My niece is getting married. When I made my hotel reservations at the four-star hotel the bridal couple selected, I discovered that our group rate was higher than the regular rate listed online.
When I asked the reservationist if there was an error, she said this was the rate negotiated by the bride and groom!
It has been my experience that reserving a block of rooms gives you a lower – not a higher – rate. There will be a large group of relatives attending from both sides of the family. At an overcharge of $25 per room for two nights, I believe we are footing the bill for the entire wedding party!
Are we being taken advantage of?
Dear Irked: You are insinuating that the marrying couple is financing their own (and the wedding party’s) hotel stay by overcharging you and other wedding guests.
Hotel rates seem to vary widely, depending on many factors. These changing rates will be reflected online. I can imagine an online rate for one room to be lower than a rate for a block of rooms which has been locked-in in advance.
You could have assumed that this was a mistake, or glitch, or an opportunity for the marrying couple to renegotiate their rate. Instead you assume the worst. This seems particularly unkind.
Dear Amy: I loved your definition of a bully for “Upset Daughter”: “Bullies receive their fuel from others’ reactions: fear, intimidation, bewilderment – along with the drama of dominance.” I also liked your advice, “Don’t feed the beast. Laugh about it.”
This is exactly how I handled the bully in my life, and I feel liberated.
Dear Been There: Good for you!
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.