Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My sister lives across the country. She has been married for 33 years. They've raised two daughters who are now adults, but she's been living the most boring life ever! I don't know how she could be happy doing nothing but cooking and cleaning for all these years. And then she has the nerve to criticize me for not having enough time in my day, when she has no clue what it's like to work full time. Well, OK, she did work full time once -- years ago before her daughters were born. She also had a little job when her kids were in school, but it wasn't a "real job," just a little part-time lunch-lady position. I can't understand why she doesn't want to work more and help her poor husband with their finances. Then they could travel and see the world! They hardly ever go anywhere. I want so much more for her! She has never had to live through things like illness, job loss or divorce like I have. She has been supportive sometimes but not all the time. I guess I'm a bit jealous because she has so much free time. I've asked her to write me a list of what she does all day. I've sent her lists of what I manage to accomplish in the three hours I have in my home, but she has declined to provide her list. It's so sad that she has never had any aspirations! It makes me so sad to feel like she's wasted her life; she's only in her 50s! I told her all this in an email, but now she's mad at me for just being honest. She expects an apology, but I'm hurt now, too. How do we get past this? Do you have any advice on getting her to see my view?

Frustrated Sister in PA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: If being a devoted homemaker is your definition of a life wasted, then I guess my mother (and perhaps your mother), and all of the women -- and men -- through time who have derived satisfaction and joy out of being devoted spouses and parents have really just been marking time until they could quietly pass away from boredom.

Here's a little communication tip for you: If you choose to judge and criticize someone, she's not really going to ask for more feedback from you.

Your sister doesn't seem to have initiated this spitting match. She doesn't owe you or anyone else an explanation or justification for the choices she has made.

She also doesn't need to provide you a list of her daily activities so that you can pick it apart, looking for holes in her schedule. Your demands -- and your assumptions about her -- are disrespectful. You do owe her an apology.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I had been close friends with another couple for more than 35 years. We traveled abroad with them and shared all of our special occasions. About five years ago, the husband left the wife for another woman. He retired and moved to another town. We still see him about once a year. When we do see this old friend, he makes a point of saying something snarky and belittling to us. He might make fun of what my husband is wearing, or criticize our car, or bring up a disagreement he had with me 17 years ago. We never know how to convey to this man that we are hurt and offended by this. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle it?

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Sad Friends

DEAR FRIENDS: You should not have to "handle" this man. Perhaps you should step down your visits from once a year to zero. If he seeks you out, you can explain that while you share happy memories, he doesn't seem to enjoy your company now, hence the put-downs.

DEAR AMY: In the letter "Torn by Scorn," either the author or you mistakenly called the Jewish rite of passage for boys "bat mitzvah" instead of "bar mitzvah." A bat mitzvah is for a girl.

Reader

DEAR READER: I made the error while transcribing the letter. Thank you for the correction.