Ask Amy

Ask Amy: Sisters crush one another by not ‘being there’

DEAR AMY: I have three sisters. We have no brothers. We are all over 60.

In 2013 and 2014, two of my brothers-in-law died and I went to their funerals, paying for airfare and motels.

Last year, my husband died and two of my sisters did not come to be by my side. I wrote them each a letter explaining how I felt. I can’t get past this hurt. I thought we’d always “be there” for each other.

You are always telling family members to mend disputes and to move on. I can’t get past the fact that they hurt me. I’m just thankful we live in different states and don’t have to see each other.

Sad

DEAR SAD: I’m so sorry this has happened. You did the right thing to contact your sisters to let them know how their behavior affected you. This feeling of disappointment compounds your loss and sadness. It’s a true fact that your siblings have a lot of power; they have known you your whole life – they are the only people who knew your parents the way you did. They are witnesses to your life’s story: They are there for the birthdays and weddings and – they should be there for the losses too. But sisters seem to have a special ability to crush and disappoint one another.

You don’t say how your sisters have replied to your letter – or if they have replied. It is hard to imagine any excuse or explanation that could possibly be adequate.

Their behavior reflects very badly on them, just as your behavior during their time of loss reflects very well upon you. You should not have to beg them for connection, and unfortunately you may have to find a way to move forward and deal with this loss – on top of your other loss. It has been my experience that these monumental losses often bring about a splintering of family connections, instead of a coming together.

I hope you are attending a grief group. Communicating with other grieving people, you will learn that sometimes, unfortunately, death brings out the very worst in people. If they don’t know what to do, they do nothing, and there is nothing worse than doing nothing when someone else is hurting.

DEAR AMY: I’m newly married (almost a year) to a handsome man that I’m completely in love with. My concern is that we have separate bank accounts and rarely share money with each other.

I’m going to school for a medical program and work right after class most days. But my cash flow is pretty much gas and food money for myself. I try to help out with bills, which are also separate.

I clean, cook and help with my stepdaughter. But instead of helping me out with bills, he goes off and spends money elsewhere and then tells me he’s broke.

Should I be concerned for our future, if he doesn’t want to help me financially?

Truly Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: Yes, you should be concerned for your future – not only because he doesn’t want to “help” you financially, but because your separate finances seem to be held in secret. Married partners should have a level of financial transparency. You don’t need to combine all bills, but it is best to have a household fund to which you each contribute. If he makes more money, he should contribute more to the household fund for now. Presumably you will contribute more as you make more.

You sound naive and he sounds financially irresponsible. This will be the No. 1 thing you fight about as you move forward. Read “The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke,” by Suze Orman (2007, Riverhead Books).

You two should see a financial planner and accountant, agree to transparency and some reasonable ground rules for spending, saving, bill-paying and debt.

DEAR AMY: My son is getting married to a woman I really don’t like. How do I respond to the oft-asked question, “How do you like her?”

Future Mother-in-law

DEAR MOTHER-IN-LAW: I think when people ask this, they are really asking for a description. And so you can offer a neutral description of who she is and what she does, how the two met, etc. You can also say (hopefully truthfully), “Max adores her and that’s all I care about.”

Otherwise, if people probe further – which they often do – I suggest you lie your head off.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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