Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - by Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy: My sis­ter re­cently died sud­denly. My hus­band does not like my late sis­ter’s hus­band. My mother in­vited my sis­ter’s hus­band to share our holiday din­ner. I have a prob­lem with him right

now be­cause af­ter 35 years to­gether (she even waited for him while he was in prison for more than a decade), he an­nounced that he had met some­one two months af­ter my sis­ter’s death. We all be­lieve he was dat­ing this woman be­fore my sis­ter passed.

Cur­rently, my mother, brother in-law and I are in grief ther­apy. Our coun­selor sug­gested we do things to­gether that my sis­ter liked, as a form of heal­ing.

My mother be­lieves this could be an ex­er­cise for heal­ing. My hus­band re­fuses to go and has said I am be­ing dis­loyal to him if I go. He said I should put him be­fore all of them.

My hus­band and I have got­ten into huge ar­gu­ments over this and have even talked about di­vorce.

I want to go to my mother’s house to be with her af­ter my sis­ter’s death, but I don’t want my hus­band to be un­happy and alone, ei­ther.

My hus­band knows the rea­son why I want to go to my mother’s. I told him he is be­ing con­trol­ling.

I don’t know what to do. I am torn and feel miserable.

Your ad­vice? — Torn and Miserable

Dear Torn: My re­ac­tion is that you should share this din­ner with your fam­ily and your hus­band should do this with you — for you.

In­clud­ing your late-sis­ter’s hus­band in this meal makes this chal­leng­ing for ev­ery­one, but you can as­sume that this is likely the last holiday meal you will share with him, and if this helps you and your mother find peace with this huge loss, then your hus­band should try to be help­ful.

Yes, mar­ried cou­ples should put one an­other at the cen­ter of each other’s lives. Right now, this ap­plies to him. He should be kind and gen­tle to­ward you, even if it causes him some dis­com­fort.

I’m glad you are get­ting grief coun­sel­ing, but I also think that a ten­sion-filled holiday din­ner is NOT nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to help all of you. I think if you and your mother took a walk to­gether and vis­ited one of her fa­vorite places to­gether, this might help you both more than plow­ing through the awk­ward­ness of this high-stakes holiday meal.

You can say, “Honey, I’m hop­ing that you can do this for me. If you don’t want to go, or if you don’t think you can be­have well, then it would be best for you to make other plans for that day. I’ll be back by six and I’d be happy to bring you some pie.”

Dear Amy: How can older fam­ily mem­bers not feel guilty about stop­ping the ex­ten­sive gift-giv­ing that has evolved over the holiday sea­son? My hus­band and I have been very gen­er­ous to all of our chil­dren and their chil­dren. Our fam­ily has now swelled to mas­sive num­bers and it is over­whelm­ing for us.

Also, it must be noted that these fam­ily mem­bers hardly ever re­cip­ro­cate or thank us. They don’t re­mem­ber our birth­days and gift-giv­ing from them is very spo­radic. — Over­whelmed

Dear Over­whelmed: Here’s how you do it: You look back on your decades of gen­eros­ity with pride, and you put the word out that from now on, you will fo­cus on cel­e­brat­ing the holiday sea­son through a shared meal and ex­pe­ri­ences to­gether. I sug­gest you send out a group email with this mes­sage, and make some plans to at­tend sea­sonal con­certs and ser­vices in your com­mu­nity. The time has come for you to en­joy the sea­son in the way you want to.

Dear Amy: I loved your ad­vice to “Up­set.” She and hubby had a deal about where they would ul­ti­mately live, and you sug­gested she should ex­pect him to hold up his end of the agree­ment.

I know what it’s like to live in a place where you are un­happy. Af­ter a year of liv­ing in Cleve­land, a re­turn to California be­came es­sen­tial for me! My hus­band and I also had an agree­ment. He kept his part of the bar­gain. We’ve been in California for 30 won­der­ful years, and he would agree that com­ing home was the best thing we could have done! — Grate­ful

Dear Grate­ful: A deal is an agree­ment be­tween two par­ties, and both need to make good on their part.

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