Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Mom and sister’s private email finds its way to him

- | CAROLYN HAX Email Carolyn at

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared April 22, 2009.

Dear Carolyn: Recently, an email exchange between my mother and my sister ended up in my inbox, I can only assume by mistake. It was full of criticism and hurtful comments. I had no idea either one of them had an issue with my family, or the way we are raising our kids. My wife was my only saving grace. She read the message, deleted it and helped me let my frustratio­ns out to her so I wouldn’t say anything to them and do permanent damage.

We are supposed to see these family members soon. I want to go and try to enjoy the day, but I’m fearful that I might slip. What should I do?

Stressed-Out Son

Stressed-Out Son: You’re right; your wife made an elegant save. Unleashing the raw emotions of your discovery would probably have made things worse. Now that you’ve had time to collect yourself, though, you can figure out your next move by gauging whether you’ll be able to get past this.

No doubt you are hurt; that’s a given. The question is whether this pain is out of proportion to your other feelings about your sister and mom.

One way to approach it is to consider things you’ve said to your mom about your sister, to your sister about your mom, and to your wife about both of them. Imagine what would happen if these conversati­ons ever fell into the wrong hands.

I would use that to remind yourself that exchanges intended to be in confidence aren’t always pretty. As long as they aren’t motivated by spite, they can help friends and family understand each other, work through grievances and even warn each other when something is amiss.

If the email could be considered well-meaning, then you have grounds for a conscious decision to let go. If, on the other hand, there’s no room to interpret the message as anything but mean-spirited, then you might reasonably expect the injuries won’t heal on their own. If so, you owe it to yourself to say, calmly to your mom or sister that you received the email.

You obviously aren’t planning to estrange yourself from the family, so that leaves you with two plain if difficult choices: Make peace with them, or with yourself.

Dear Carolyn: What are your thoughts on weddings in which the bride has a close male friend stand among the bridesmaid­s and/or the groom has a close female friend with his half of the wedding party? Let’s add the twist that bride/groom was previously involved with this wedding-party member. If they now have a healthy, mature friendship, could such an arrangemen­t be considered appropriat­e?

Strictly Platonic

Strictly Platonic: If any of the three is uncomforta­ble with it, then it’s not appropriat­e. If all three are OK with it, then I don’t consider it appropriat­e for anyone else to weigh in on the appropriat­eness of the arrangemen­t. How’s that?

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