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COVID causes rift between nurse's boyfriend, his sister

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: I am a nurse in New York City. My boyfriend lives in Philadelphia. During the height of the pandemic, we didn't see each other because I worked on a COVID unit and contracted the virus. His sister became very controlling and kept urging him not to see me, which brought me great pain. I was extremely lonely, and for months, the only people I saw were my co-workers.

At the end of May, my boyfriend and I began seeing each other regularly. Because he sees me, his sister refuses to see him, which makes me very sad. His mother died two years ago.

When his family tries to plan things, his sister either comes late or doesn't show up. If I'm invited, she says she doesn't want to be in the same room as me. I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and his older father, who he now lives with. His father has never expressed that he feels uncomfortable around me.

I feel like we have to plan things around this sister. I want my boyfriend to spend time with his family, but she's extremely controlling when everyone else in the family seems excited to see me. What do I do? -- UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATION

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: I am assuming that if you are again working that you are tested regularly for COVID and therefore in no danger of giving the virus to anyone. Because there has been so much misinformation spread during the pandemic, many people are being extremely cautious -- and rightfully so.

If you had a good relationship with your boyfriend's sister before the pandemic began, recognize that she acts the way she does because she's afraid for her life, so stop personalizing it and judging her for it. She has a right to protect herself, even if it seems irrational to you.

DEAR ABBY: As a grandparent, I feel the Christmas gift my husband and I received last year from our granddaughter was a gift of a lifetime. We have enjoyed it all year. It was a gift of memories, written on 12 cards to be opened on the first day of each month. She had inserted each card into an individual envelope, designated with which month it was to be opened. She put them in a box wrapped with a bow and placed it under the tree.

The excitement generated while anxiously awaiting a new month's arrival so the new memory could be read created enthusiasm among the entire family. In each envelope were experiences we had forgotten or never realized had made an impact on her life.

A gift like this requires only time and 12 pieces of paper. The concept could even be reversed so it would be from grandparent to grandchild. Few of us grandparents need material gifts, but the caring, thought and love shown by this gift will remain with us all our lives. -- WANTED TO SHARE, FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR WANTED TO SHARE: What a precious gift. I have long advocated that the most meaningful gift we can give each other is the gift of self, in the form of time, attention, a handwritten letter or a phone call. Your granddaughter's concept of a "Memory of the Month Club" was ingenious. I congratulate her for it, and I hope it inspires others.

DEAR ABBY: My wife recently came back from a gold/silver/coin merchandiser event and told me she had sold an old U.S. $5 gold piece (for probably less than it was worth). I was hurt, not only because I have a coin collection and would have been interested in knowing about and seeing the coin, but also because she didn't seem to understand how disappointed and hurt I was. She gleefully announced she was going to use the proceeds to purchase an exercise bike.

I took a two-hour walk to work off my feelings and then skipped dinner because I had lost my appetite. Sometimes I feel that my feelings don't matter to her -- that it's "her way or the highway." Should I let this incident go and move on, or is a long "crucial conversation" called for? -- DISCOUNTED IN OHIO

DEAR DISCOUNTED: Of course you should discuss this with your wife. That coin was only a thing. The fact that the coin was sold without first consulting you is less important than your statement that sometimes you think your feelings don't matter to her.

A key factor in successful marriages is the ability to discuss difficult subjects calmly. Your ability to relate to each other appears to need improvement. If you cannot work this out between the two of you, a licensed therapist may be able to help.

DEAR ABBY: I was at the zoo with my daughter enjoying an ice cream cone. At the next table over, a man was berating his daughter, yelling at her for saying no to his girlfriend. He said things like, "I'm going to bust your butt so hard you won't sit for a week," and he kept glaring at her like she was the worst creature on the planet. It was hard to sit there watching a dad verbally and emotionally abuse an innocent 4-year-old. Is there anything I could have done? -- HELPLESS IN UTAH

DEAR HELPLESS: You might have attempted to distract the father by saying something to him to the effect that parenting can be frustrating at times, which might have interrupted his rant. But beyond that there was nothing you could do to intervene. What a shame. Berating and threatening his little girl won't cause her to like or accept the girlfriend. Quite the opposite, in fact.

DEAR ABBY: I recently married a wonderful lady who has three adult children. Her kids are great, but they have one habit that kind of bothers me. They address their mother by her first name, never as Mom or Mother. I feel it shows a lack of respect. I have thought about saying something to them about it, but I don't want to make a big deal out of it. What do you think? -- MR. TRADITIONAL IN MISSOURI

DEAR MR. T.: I'm glad you have resisted the urge to render a judgment upon the way your wife's children address her -- and probably have since they were quite young. People show respect for each other in the way they treat each other. What they call each other is their own business. If your wife is happy and has a good relationship with her children, keep your opinion to yourself.

DEAR ABBY: I have a delightful, caring, loving man in my life. We knew each other years ago when we were married to other people. Three years ago, after a couple of years of courtship, he asked me to move in.

We are great together. He has embraced my two children and especially my two grandchildren as he had none from his previous marriage. Because I bring more to his life than anyone, I proposed to him seven months ago, and he said yes. We talked, and he requested a prenup, which is fine with me because his ex took a large sum of cash.

I have asked a few times since the proposal if he has talked to his cousin who is an attorney he trusts, but I don't believe this is moving along. Because you cannot make anyone do anything they are not inclined to do, I have stopped asking. He knows I need financial security.

I have always done right by him -- that is who I am. At this point, I'm enjoying my life of privilege with my doctor companion, who loves me dearly but can't seem to honor our relationship and take the next step. Am I right to let it be? -- WAITING, FOR NOW

DEAR WAITING: I agree that you cannot make anyone do anything they are not inclined to do. Because drafting the prenuptial agreement appears to be stalled, raise the subject again and ask if he regrets accepting your proposal or if he's ready to move forward. He may like things just as they are, and if you need more than what he is willing to give, you may have to move on. Three years is enough time to decide if he wants to make your romance permanent.

DEAR ABBY: I think my parents are enabling my sister to take advantage of them. She has suffered from depression most of her life. She has two children, ages 8 and 5.

Before COVID, she dealt with her depression and was a stay-at-home mom for six years. Back in March, she asked my parents to take in her 8-year-old for schooling the rest of the year. For the last several months, one or both of her children have been here at our house. Mind you, she and her husband live five hours away, so it's not like they are nearby. Now there's discussion about my parents keeping them into next year.

Mom retired only last year and has barely been able to enjoy her retirement alone with my stepdad. When my brother and I bring up the topic of them enabling my sister by letting her pawn her kids off and blame her depression, their response is, "Well, it's better than her going off the deep end." I also feel bad that those kids are not with their parents in their own house, instead of being schlepped around. Am I wrong to think she's being allowed to get away with being a bad parent? -- CONCERNED IN COLORADO

DEAR CONCERNED: The COVID-19 epidemic and subsequent quarantine have triggered anxiety and serious depression in people who were previously emotionally resilient. That it could cause a recurrence in someone with chronic depression is no surprise. Your mother and stepfather are doing what they feel is best for their grandchildren, your sister and themselves. Accept it and quit second-guessing them. They have more than enough to deal with without you adding more stress at this point.