I stopped speaking to my father because of his continued enabling of my younger brother to remain a dependent.
My brother, 39, had a university education funded by my parents, yet has never worked because he doesn’t have to.
My parents have used his mental health issues since age 11 as their excuse for coddling him over all these years.
He’s smart enough to have made it through school, even though it took a few extra years. But they are so over-protective; they believe that he cannot handle any work environment at all.
I’m 45, a father of two, and both my wife and I work. Our kids see their grandparents on occasions, but I cannot communicate with them regularly, since they’re unwilling to acknowledge their mistake.
They’ve also never faced the fact that they’ll one day be gone and I’ll end up responsible for my brother financially, with no discussion of plans for this, which I deeply resent.
There’s much more to this story than you’ve written (or even known).
Most important: Find out the diagnosis they were initially given of your brother’s mental health illness.
And what treatment plans have (or haven’t) been followed over the years.
Since your parents supported him until now, hopefully they have some resources set aside in their will for his care.
You must discuss this with them. It’s clear you’ve been hurt and felt second place to your brother’s needs.
But you’re now a parent who can understand their fears for their child, even if their approach has been misguided.
To get communication going, you’d benefit from seeing a therapist.
Talking to your father is essential for your own self-respect, as well as your brother’s future.
A dear relative’s husband died six months ago, after a long, difficult illness. She’d already suffered from depression for years.
Now she's very isolated, has health problems, and very few friends around.
As her only surviving relative, I reach out through phone calls and occasional emails.
I visited her though she lives far away and it’s a difficult trip for me.
She’s increasingly angry, making it hard to talk to her. Her only interest is watching television.
If I ask about her life, she snaps at being put under a microscope.
Her eating habits, her increased alcohol consumption, and refusal to go out, make it hard to see her self-sabotage and hard to bear her anger.
I’m also grieving because alcohol and depression have been a big part of our family legacy.
I want to pull away but not abandon her.
How can I be compassionate and helpful while also setting boundaries so her depression doesn’t bring me down?
Sad in the City
Your caring and contact is already compassionate.
Keep up email and calls, using them as brief check-ins that connect you to her without probing her life.
Visit again, but go when you’re emotionally up for it.
Plan ahead how to spend time together. Example: Follow a TV show she likes for awhile (or read about it on the Internet) and then watch it together.
She needs someone in her own area who can respond quickly if she needs help. Ask to meet her few friends so you can later chat about them with her, and contact them if necessary.
Try to get her out even for a short walk, or grocery shopping.
Also, suggest going to an Al-Anon meeting together, regarding the family history. It may affect her own drinking habit.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman’s live-in boyfriend of six years who believes that if you’re not married, it’s acceptable to cheat (January 5):
Reader – “Anyone who believes that the marriage contract is going to change someone and make them faithful is deluding themselves.
“There are always going to be temptations for both parties in a relationship.
“If there isn't any trust now, then the parties should split up before going down the road of a smoke-and-mirror show called "marriage".
“Marriage won’t make his commitment to her faithful. He is who he is.
“He’s just using her and always will, because it avoids his taking any responsibility for himself.
“As long as she’s taken on caring for him like a child, he never has to grow up.
“She needs to find someone who shares her desire to be in a committed relationship, pull his weight and love her, not abuse her.”
Tip of the day:
An angry family split doesn’t resolve issues; it only hides you from them.