Fam­ily mem­ber makes it all about him

Sherbrooke Record - - SPORTS -

FRI­DAY, JAN­UARY 11, 2019

Dear An­nie: At the fam­ily gath­er­ings on my spouse’s side, my brother-in-law “Al­bert” wants to loudly dom­i­nate any con­ver­sa­tion by ei­ther talk­ing about his life or show­ing his “great” knowl­edge and opin­ions on other sub­jects. He rarely in­quires about how any­one else is or shows much in­ter­est in lis­ten­ing to us. He can be to­tally obliv­i­ous to what is hap­pen­ing with oth­ers.

A good ex­am­ple hap­pened about a year ago. Four of us met at a restau­rant to cel­e­brate a birth­day. A few weeks prior, my spouse had missed Al­bert’s birth­day lunch be­cause my spouse was hos­pi­tal­ized for some wor­ri­some med­i­cal prob­lems. Al­bert sat down at the ta­ble with the three of us, didn’t say “happy birth­day” to the birth­day per­son, didn’t ask how my spouse was do­ing and didn’t in­quire about why I was on crutches. We spent most of the evening lis­ten­ing to him feel sorry for him­self be­cause only one per­son had been to his birth­day lunch.

He has been very grad­u­ally get­ting worse over the years. I know he is lonely and wants to con­nect, but our lis­ten­ing to him just seems to en­cour­age more of his an­noy­ing, one-sided be­hav­ior. Plus, no one in the gath­er­ing wants to get cor­nered by him and have to lis­ten to him go­ing on and on about the lit­tle de­tails of his life. I have sug­gested coun­sel­ing or find­ing a close friend when he’s been go­ing through one of his rough patches, but he’s had ex­cuses. My spouse and Al­bert’s other sib­lings do not want to talk to him about this be­cause he gets an­gry and de­fen­sive when they try to bring these sorts of things to light. It’s as if his life de­tails get pent up and he has to un­leash it all at fam­ily gath­er­ings. None of the fam­ily spends time with him ex­cept for hol­i­days be­cause a re­la­tion­ship with him is so one-sided and drain­ing.

I keep try­ing to tell my­self he is just a very lonely man who needs love and com­pas­sion. And at times, I can even feel a lit­tle of that. But when the fam­ily gath­ers, all that goes out the win­dow, and I’m back to feel­ing an­noyed.

If you could come up with a good so­lu­tion on how I could change my at­ti­tude, I would ap­pre­ci­ate it. If not, I have a small hope that he would read your col­umn and see him­self. — An­noyed by Brother-in-law

Dear An­noyed by Brother-in-law: I ad­mire your em­pa­thy, and I com­mend you for fo­cus­ing on the one thing you truly have con­trol over: your at­ti­tude. Try to show your­self some com­pas­sion, and don’t feel so guilty when your brother-in-law’s be­hav­ior an­noys you. Ir­ri­ta­tion is a nat­u­ral re­sponse when some­one is be­hav­ing nar­cis­sis­ti­cally. Yes, he might act this way be­cause he’s lonely, but that doesn’t give him carte blanche to act like a bully with­out con­se­quence. You and the rest of the fam­ily shouldn’t hes­i­tate to put him in check. If he’s dom­i­nat­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, re­di­rect it by ask­ing an­other fam­ily mem­ber at the ta­ble about some­thing go­ing on in his or her life. If he in­ter­rupts some­one, po­litely but firmly stop him and say, “I don’t think (in­sert name here) was done talk­ing.” If he cor­ners you and mo­nop­o­lizes your time, ex­cuse your­self af­ter a few min­utes to min­gle with the rest of the guests. And do en­cour­age your spouse to (again) let Al­bert know how his be­hav­ior is im­pact­ing the rest of the fam­ily. Maybe it would spur him to get help.

“Ask Me Any­thing: A Year of Ad­vice From Dear An­nie” is out now! An­nie Lane’s de­but book — fea­tur­ing fa­vorite col­umns on love, friend­ship, fam­ily and eti­quette — is avail­able as a pa­per­back and e-book. Visit http://www.cre­ator­spub­lish­ing.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

Send your ques­tions for An­nie Lane to dear­an­[email protected]­ators.com.

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