No need to build bridges with toxic sister

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

bio | email

DEAR AMY: My sister and I have been estranged for several years. The issues involve mistrust, dishonesty, financial and emotional manipulation, and her choice to marry my ex-husband! After this, she has proceeded to spread untrue information about me to our extended family and friends in an effort to sway their feelings about me. What am I supposed to say to people when they suggest my sister and I make amends? I'm up to my eyeballs with this.--On the Edge


DEAR EDGE: I'm struggling to imagine the context in which people feel free to suggest you must reconcile with someone who is something of a danger to you. I'm not suggesting your sister is actually physically dangerous, but that this relationship is toxic and depleting and not good for you. Given what you report, the "amends" should be offered by her -- and it's up to you to accept (or not).

If you don't discuss your sister (or your relationship with her) openly, then people will not be prompted to weigh in. If people suggest or insist you make amends (unprompted), then you don't need to justify -- or even respond. If you want, you can say, "I hear what you're saying, but I don't want to discuss this with you."


DEAR AMY: Your answer to "Uncomfortable" was way off the mark. Her new boss had arranged for employees to go to a "raunchy" movie as a "team-building" event. You suggested she attend but excuse herself, skip the movie and go out with the group afterward. Are you serious? I had a boss like that, and he turned out to be a sexual pervert. She should say, "I'm sorry, Mr. X, but when I signed up for this event, I didn't know what movie we were seeing. I don't enjoy that type of film but will be happy to reimburse you for my ticket." He might try to laugh it off or make her feel like an outsider. Don't buy into it.--Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: I appreciate your take on this. "Uncomfortable" said she was a brand-new employee; she had already agreed to attend this event and was concerned about being labeled by her boss and co-workers.

Your advice is completely sound and is the ideal response. However, realistically, given the current employment climate and the fact that she was a new hire, I tried to offer a way for her to deflect this issue until she had more grounding and knew who (and what) she was dealing with.