Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: Years ago, I took out several parent "PLUS" loans to help put my daughter through college. She took out some smaller loans, which she has since paid off. She has been out of school for seven years and has a good job, while I have unexpectedly lost mine. I've had to request a temporary forbearance on repayment of these loans until I am back to work. I have asked my daughter if she could at least split the balance with me, with each of us paying roughly $7,000. I have not received a reply to my request. This is the second time I've brought this matter up. The first time was over a year ago, and her answer then was that she was having expensive dental problems, so she could not do it at the time. I understood. She does not live nearby and unfortunately, we aren't as close as I'd like us to be. However, I don't think I was out of line to ask her to help me in paying back the loans I took out to put her through school, was I?

Financially Tight Mom

DEAR MOM: Your daughter is now benefiting from the education, which you took a risk to help finance. You did what you could at the time, and she should do what she can, now. That is not how loans are structured, but this is how healthy families are structured. I have to assume that if your relationship were better, your daughter would behave like a loving, responsible adult now.

You should proceed, however, under the assumption that your daughter will not help you. Stay in touch with the lender concerning the loan balance and do whatever is necessary to try to prevent this from damaging your credit. Explore any other options available to you, in addition to deferment. Check the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan Program site (direct.ed.gov/parentrepay.html) for more information.

DEAR AMY: Our sister "went off" on our brother's wife, in front of all of us, for being controlling and harsh with our elder parents' care, which this sister-in-law was generously providing. Our sister's criticism is unfounded. Sister doesn't think she has anything to apologize for. Sister-in-law feels rejected by all of us because we act like nothing is wrong when we are together. Two of us sisters have talked and agree that Sister Number Three was rude and should apologize for how she "attacked" our sister-in-law. Either way, apology or no, what should we do at family gatherings?

Upset

DEAR UPSET: Ideally, you would have reacted in the moment to say, "Whoa, wait a minute, sister. This is unfair." You didn't do this, for all sorts of understandable reasons -- presumably you were surprised and were also letting the unspoken "sister code" guide you. But the sister code does not cover sisters being rude and bullying to other family members.

You should apologize on your own behalf for not being more supportive when your sister launched her sneak attack. You need not try to explain your sister's motivations or apologize for her. And then, yes, you should tell Sister Number Three, quite honestly, that she was out of line. The burden is on her to mitigate this by apologizing; the burden on you is to be honest and transparent, and to continue to offer your sister-in-law the gratitude and support she so obviously deserves.

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At family gatherings, you will all have to tolerate the awkwardness that is a direct result of your sister's unfortunate behavior. After you've been honest with all parties you will be able to behave in a more genuine way toward both.

DEAR AMY: I have a story like "Torn's," whose best friend excluded Torn's wife from a party invitation. When we were dating, my husband introduced me to his best friend and the friend's wife. He told them we were serious and would likely marry. The wife then issued several party invitations to my then-boyfriend, specifically excluding me. Regardless of whatever reasons she had for her behavior, we were a couple and expected to be treated as such. We did not attend the parties (and the friendship soon ended).

B

DEAR B: Many readers responded to say that "Torn's" friend was a prize jerk.