Dear Annie: Several years ago my brother-in-law died. He had been married to my older sister for 50 years. They had no children. She did not want to live alone, nor did she want to live with a roommate. In order to solve the situation, I sold my home and bought a duplex where she could live in one unit and I would live in the other. This arrangement has worked out very well for both of us.
Here's the issue: My siblings never visit with me, even though they often come to see my sister. I always learn of their visits after the fact, when my sister tells me about them in conversation. At first I was puzzled by their lack of consideration to take a few moments to say hello to me, at least periodically. But then I realized they had made a choice as to who they would visit and who they would not.
If I happen to be at my sister's place when one of my siblings stops by, I am always very cordial. I spend a social amount of time in conversation with them and enjoy their company. I do not overstay my visit in order to allow them time to visit with one another.
They have never communicated with me much, and I have accepted this as the norm. I have reached out in the past to call them and sometimes go to their homes to visit so that I am not accused of failing to remain in contact. But it doesn't seem to be reciprocal.
I harbor no ill will toward them and realize that I have no control over their behavior. I'm simply confused as to why this situation developed. I continue with my life and my friends, hoping someday I will understand. — Bewildered Sibling
Dear Bewildered: You could ask them why, when they are so close to your home, they do not stop by to say hello or phone ahead to have you join them at your sister's. You could also ask your sister why she doesn't suggest they visit you when they are at her place. You and your siblings seem to have a rather detached relationship and there could be any number of reasons for it, but you won't know unless you ask them directly whether there is any way to close the distance.
Dear Annie: Can you please explain the difference between unconditional love and enabling? I see so much enabling in the name of love. — Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: Unconditional love means you love someone regardless of their behavior, while not necessarily condoning what they say or do. (For example, your daughter steals from you. You are angry about it and no longer trust her, but you still love her.) Enabling is acting in a way that allows the loved one to continue behavior that is damaging either to himself or to others. (You make excuses for your alcoholic husband when he's too hung over to show up for work.)
A lot of folks can't tell the difference. And it is often easier to be an enabler than to hold someone responsible for their behavior. But "easier" is the wrong choice.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Donnie Ray Jones