Carolyn Hax: Advice

Carolyn Hax: Don’t test brother and wife — just talk

Carolyn: My relationship with my brother and his wife has in later years become one where I drove the several hours to their home, visited, etc., even though I work and he is retired. The phone conversations, however, always went both ways.

Two years ago, I wrote a letter spelling out where I thought we were, and he indicated he wanted to work through some of the issues between us to improve our relationship. His wife offered to set up a weekend for us to mend fences.

For once I thought I’d wait for them to follow up, as she had made the offer, but the follow-up has never happened.

As the months went by and I waited, not only did the weekend never get set up, but they no longer even call (either one) as they used to, and although I realize how much I initiated calls and visits, it’s really disappointing to see that a sibling and his wife — whom I’ve also had a friendship with for 25 years — have simply decided it’s not worth it to them. I’ve agonized as to what I could do, especially as our parents are starting to need our help, but am at a loss. Any thoughts?

Sad in Texas

Two thoughts:

First, that letter “spelling out where I thought we were” apparently did not say what you hoped it would, unless you hoped to say, “This is everything I think you’re doing wrong.” The response to such letters often is an overwhelming interest in not following up, ever.

Second, you do know they haven’t called you, but you don’t know the reason. Maybe “it’s not worth it to them,” sure, but maybe too they are waiting for you to return their volley of offering a weekend. Or they have other, difficult things going on, and have reached for the phone several times only to balk at the prospect of another emotional slog. Or they just want to say, “Hey, how goes?” but that feels wrong.

Your disappointment at being ignored for so long is understandable. Everyone’s state of mind notwithstanding though, you’re testing them, and tests are no way to communicate. If you want them back in your life, then I suggest you place a call — a conciliatory one, not one that renews any blame.

Dear Carolyn: I recently read the obituary of my friend “Amy’s” mother. Amy was also the high school sweetheart of my (childless) brother.

When I checked Amy’s Facebook page, pictures popped up, and one friend, “Linda,” looked exactly like my sister! I discovered via Facebook posts that an unwed Amy had given Linda up for adoption 40-plus years ago and that they had since reunited. This coincides with the time of my brother and Amy’s two-year relationship.

I’ve told only my Linda-look-alike-sister, and she thinks we should tell our brother.

So what shall I do or say now? Ask Amy? Tell my brother? Keep quiet?

Anonymous

You dug up these old bones, now you need to share them with your brother. Then back off completely and let him figure out what to do with the information, even if it’s nothing at all.

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