I’m a 44-year-old single man, never married. I enjoy my single, independent lifestyle.
I’ve had two girlfriends in the past, but the relationships didn’t work out. I’m very close to my mother and my sister, and I have several close friends.
But the relationship with one uncle (my mother's sister's husband) isn’t close at all.
In the last five-to-six years at family gatherings, he’s made some very unwelcome remarks to me about my personal life.
He’s a very calculating, crafty man who’ll make these remarks when he’s alone in the room with me and others are out of earshot.
Some remarks have been putdowns, others have been of a sexual nature. Most recently, he insinuated that I’m homosexual.
This has prompted me to consider taking action.
I’ve considered confiding in my sister about my uncle's misbehaviour. But I’m unsure about confiding in my mother, fearing that it’ll fracture her relationship with her sister.
My uncle's remarks are inappropriate, indecent, and insulting. This is harassment and/or bullying.
I don’t want to be around him anymore, or even be in the same room. I also don’t want to keep this to myself any longer.
Should I confide in my sister and my mother?
Bringing others into this situation should not be your first move.
Instead, confront your uncle directly, preferably in person (an email can be circulated, and become an instrument of division throughout the family).
Before you decide to end all contact, approach him at the next family event.
Say outright that you’ve been deeply offended by his repeated put-downs and unfounded assumptions.
Say that you question why an uncle would behave this way, rather than just talk to you if he’s actually concerned about your life.
His reaction will help you decide your next move.
If he brushes you off, or counters with more rudeness, tell him your association with him is over.
Then tell your sister. It’s best if you two together gently explain things to your mother.
But insist that this is between you and him, you don’t want it to carry over to her relationship with her sister.
My grandson’s being raised by his parents under rigid schedules, and what I consider excessive supervision.
He has almost no free time at all.
He must excel at every sport (at eight!) by getting special instruction in each, attend an after-school math tutoring program twice weekly, and fulfill his parents’ extra reading list.
He only has time for one playdate for a few hours on Saturdays.
My grandparent visits are very limited due to this tight, demanding schedule.
When I’ve mentioned this to my son, he says that he and his wife are preparing their son to be successful in a highly competitive world.
I ask, “at age eight?” His response: “It has to start early.”
Meanwhile, my grandson shows some negative behaviour, which I’m sure comes from stress.
He’s unruly in school, starts trouble sometimes, and goes into a shell at others.
What can I do to help him?
Visit whenever you can. Try to have happy, relaxed time with him.
Encourage him for who he is and his own interests, not just for what he does.
Let him know that to you, he’s special, smart, and very loved.
When you hear about his acting out at school, ask your son why he thinks this is happening.
Mention that perhaps he’s stressed. Suggest that maybe family counselling will help them all get at whatever’s causing negative behaviour.
FEEDBACK Regarding the young woman in university residence whose former friends are ignoring her (October 18):
Reader – “I understand what it feels like to be in a housing situation you don't want to be in.
“I’ve spent many years feeling abandoned and excluded.
“So I do understand her feelings, especially since I’ve just moved to a new small town. Making friends seems almost impossible.
“If she needs a new friend to talk to, you may give her my contact information.”
Ellie – I published your feedback for two important reasons:
1) I’m reminding readers that your emails are kept anonymous. I don’t reveal names, email addresses, or other details and therefore cannot connect people.
2) I’m also responding to your empathy at another person’s difficulties making friends. I believe you are someone who can find friends if you just show interest, listen, and respond.
Also, join local community events – from organized walks to helping out at charity events.
Tip of the day:
Confront a critical relative directly before involving other family members.