Ask Amy

Ask Amy: Long lost in-law comes to town for inheritance

DEAR AMY: My husband’s brother, who disappeared over 30 years ago, has reappeared after my mother-in-law’s death. During the time he was gone, he occasionally made contact with his parents and relatives through filthy, hurtful letters.

My husband’s sister made contact with him and now my husband wants to re-establish a relationship with him.

I don’t trust him at all – he goes by many names, won’t give any information about himself and looks down his nose at those who have “sold out to the establishment.”

We suspect he has decided to resurface because there may be some inheritance soon. I have no problem with that – my beef is that I don’t want him in my home and I want as little contact with him as possible.

My husband keeps inviting him to our home but he is so slippery, he never shows up (thank goodness).

I have not shared my thoughts with my husband. When he suggests getting together with his brother, I will go and be polite and keep my concerns to myself.

But his brother is so creepy. Anything you can suggest to help this situation?

Concerned Wife

DEAR CONCERNED: If you are sincere about not wanting your brother-in-law inside your home, then why are you keeping quiet about it? It is your home too, and if you have such a strong objection then you should talk to your husband about it.

I sense that you are keeping quiet because you want to be calm and observant, and don’t want to stand between your husband and his brother – which is a wise choice.

People tend to maintain the patterns they have established throughout life, and if your brother-in-law is a judgmental, unreliable and overall toxic person, then he will probably burn his siblings at some point (probably soon after the inheritance check clears). You should not wag your finger and say, “I told you so,” but you should offer your husband support and understanding when the inevitable happens.

DEAR AMY: I have a family member who I suspect may be anorexic. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but she told me when she looks in the mirror she sees a fat person. She says the thought of food makes her want to be sick. When she does eat, it is only a few bites. She says she just has to lose some more weight and she'll be fine. She has lost about 30 pounds in nine months; she is experiencing a lot of stress right now, but I’m a little worried. How common is it for a woman over 50 years of age to develop anorexia?

Worried

DEAR WORRIED: Diagnosed serious eating disorders are actually relatively rare, though they seem to affect younger women at an increasing rate, according to statistics cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (anad.org).

However, overall “disordered eating” is alarmingly common. One study I read said that an estimated 70 percent of women over the age of 50 report that they are trying to lose weight. Disordered eating is frequently associated with dieting and can progress into a serious eating disorder.

Nearly half of people diagnosed with eating disorders are believed to also suffer from depression – this is an important underlying possibility.

You should express your concern in a way that is supportive and nonjudgmental, and which leaves room for a sensitive conversation. If your family member has modified her eating and is on her way to a healthy weight, then good for her. But her dieting, combined with the stress she is under, may have triggered a potentially very serious medical issue. Urge her to get a medical checkup and give her open-ended opportunities to talk about what is going on.

DEAR AMY: Your advice to “Only Daughter” to wean her father from his daily insistence of “proof of life” phone calls was actually very similar to what I did with my father. I told him in advance, “I have a late class and I won’t be checking in tonight, but I will call you tomorrow afternoon.”

Knowing when he would hear from me helped.

Student

DEAR STUDENT: The student just became the teacher. Thank you!

Write Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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