My mother-in-law’s a wonderful woman, very kind, brave, compassionate, smart, incredibly giving, and helpful.
My sister-in-law has mostly been quite nice to my family and me. Unfortunately, she's gained over 100 pounds through 20 years. Instead of admitting her weight problem and actively taking better care of her health and wellness, she considers it a sickness, takes many medications, and blames “stupid” doctors.
She chooses a very poor diet and moves less and less. Now, she’s decided to retire this spring, in her early 50's. She blames her company for penalizing her for retiring early, though they’ve made great efforts to accommodate her.
She’s also decided to move back to her mother’s home (my mother-in-law) to be looked after. She says she can't afford to support herself and has no other choice, though she’s held a well-paying job for many years.
My MIL is almost 80. She’s spent many years looking after other people (as a nurse, full-time mother of four kids, and 24/7 caregiver to my father-in-law, for two years before he died).
My SIL expects her mother’s round-the-clock care, instead of taking charge of her own health. I'm concerned that she’ll drain what little energy and vitality my MIL has left.
I think my SIL’s plans are lazy, selfish, and unfair. I’ve asked my husband to call his mother immediately.
Is there anything we can do to stop my SIL from destroying her mother’s life?
Your letter indicates great compassion for your mother-in-law but pretty much none for your sister-in-law.
You see her 100-pound weight gain as a self-indulgent act, rather than the more likely result of many possible factors (depression? unhappy relationships? a physiological imbalance?).
Given this view of her, it’d be wiser to back off and let her brother discuss this possible move with his mother and try to plan for the best arrangements both for caregiving and costs. (The finances should not be the main concern here).
So, for example, your husband should insist that there be an arrangement for a regular weekly cleaner due to the added occupant who apparently has little energy. Also, if needed medically, hire a visiting weekly caregiver (if so, there are agencies that supply these services, sometimes at costs geared to income which should be based on the SIL’s savings if possible).
With your husband then involved, he can encourage his sister to see a specialist in unusually large weight gains (Note: overeating can be driven by biological factors like genetics and hormones) and seek an accurate diagnosis that just may, in her early-50s, give her a truly new lease on life.
I’ve been friends with someone for years when suddenly they started distancing, though we’re involved in an activity together weekly.
I received a text stating that I said the wrong thing, so I apologized. Several weeks later, another text indicated I said something wrong.
I apologized again, explaining where I was coming from. My friend thinks my comments are directed at them though others are present.
The distancing continues. I still speak to them.
What advice can you give?
Text messages do not make for clear conversations.
In the rush to tap out something with minimal effort, or respond immediately to another’s brief text, the context can easily get muddled.
Your long-time friend’s unexplained frostiness was the clue to misinterpretations in these exchanges. Apologizing was the right response on your part, but an actual in-person two-way conversation about what’s caused the situation, is what’s needed now.
FEEDBACK Regarding the pianist in a vocal studio who sought my advice on what constitutes "sexual harassment,” (January 10):
The Letter-writer – “An important point was brought up regarding my letter, by a reader of your on-line column in the comment section. This reader thought that the letter was fictional because they couldn't believe such behaviors existed in this day and age.
“On reading this, I realized that I’d forgotten to mention that these incidents actually happened to me 20 years ago.
“I had considered even that long-ago time as part of the current progressive era regarding women's rights. Had you known, it might’ve changed your answer.
“I thought I should write and clarify the situation in case some other readers wrote to you and brought up the same point.
“I apologize for the oversight but it was unintentional.”
Ellie – I still believe that you were sexually harassed then, and added the current legal definition for today’s readers.
Tip of the day:
Large weight gains/obesity often involve many factors, well beyond indulgence.