My older sister’s recently been limiting our phone conversations, saying she’s too busy with home-based work and helping her two children with home-schooling, to chat with me.
I think there’s more going on because for a while she’s never mentioned her husband. They had some problems a few years ago, but I’ve heard nothing about him more recently.
I don’t fear for her safety because she’d never put up with threats or abuse to her and her kids.
How do I tell her it’s better to talk about problems with people she trusts (she knows she can trust me) than keep them bottled up inside?
Speak up, she’s your sister. Ask her if she’s “okay.” She’ll probably vent about the pandemic workload she’s carrying, so acknowledge that but keep talking. Ask directly whether her husband’s helping her.
If she reacts, tell her you care about her and her family and will always support her. That’s why you want to make sure you keep in touch.
She may still resist but will have heard you. Without pushing it, keep trying to connect. If possible, suggest going for a walk together (masked and socially distanced).
Reader’s Commentary Regarding keeping in touch with someone who didn’t want to pursue a dating relationship (April 12):
“The letter-writer asked, "Why would he want me to keep in touch?"
“I suggest it could lead to friendship even if romance wasn’t in their future. Years ago, before I married, I was in the dating game through “Personals” classified ads.
“I met many fine men whose company I enjoyed and I didn’t expect romance from each date. I had many positive experiences: I corresponded with one imaginative man. We never had the romantic spark but enjoyed a fun game of building a fictional story together.
“Another man sent regular letters as he traveled the world and I replied to all his letters at whatever address he advised.
“Finally, the man that eventually became my husband had indicated through ongoing phone conversations for over a month before meeting, his expectations and the sort of woman he was attracted to. At last, he asked, "Don't you want to meet me!!??"
“I said, “absolutely,” and he drove 85 miles to meet me. He was shocked when he first saw me, saying, “I thought you’d look like a football quarterback!" It was my turn to be shocked. I said "You drove 85 miles to meet someone you knew you couldn’t find romantically interesting?"
“He replied that he drove 85 miles to meet a friend. I decided, on the spot, that this guy was a winner! (It was a few years before we decided to get married).
“In the dating game today, women are so focused on romance and finding a partner that they miss many opportunities to simply enjoy their dates. It must take all the fun out of dating and cause them to miss many possible friendships along the way.”
Ellie - Though your experience dates back to a time before dating websites and apps made instant dating an expectation, you still offer a useful view of the place of friendship in dating.
If the goal is a committed relationship, couples need strong ties to help toward their staying together. Plunging into a sexual connection from the start of dating may satisfy an immediate need, but is less likely to form the kind of bond and mutual understanding that deepens through ongoing friendship.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman upset that she and her husband, empty-nesters, do little together. He spends most days by himself doing errands, at a park, etc. and doesn’t ask her along, even announcing he’s leaving while going out the door (April 13):
Reader – “The letter-writer says that her husband enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
“Perhaps she would enjoy her own friends and family more – and send a message to him – if she did the same thing. Don’t tell him in advance about these meet-ups, and then just waltz out the door leaving him behind alone, as he does to her.
“He may start to understand why his behaviour to her is unacceptable, and she can avoid his snide comments putting her down.”
Ellie - Agreed. His behaviour doesn’t mean that she can’t change some things that’d make her happier and less lonely within the marriage (she’s indicated she’s staying).
Tip of the day:
Sensing problems in another’s life? State your caring and support upfront to hopefully start a conversation.