DEAR AMY: We have a very large and extraordinarily close family. We are pretty sure that one of the brothers is an alcoholic. We’ve seen him get in horrific arguments, start fights and belittle his companions when drunk. When he’s had too much to drink (usually at night), he likes to write long nasty emails to various people that he feels have wronged him. For several years, we’ve been trying to reach a collective extended family decision on what to do with our (deceased) parents’ home. This summer, on the night of the family vote, our brother wrote one of the nastiest emails that we’ve ever seen. We assume he was drunk when he wrote it. He singled out each family member, and outlined why he thinks each one of us is a worthless human being. He used the worst language you can imagine. He said, “I am going to make your lives miserable, and I will enjoy doing it.” We have tended to look the other way about his drinking. This time, we told him flat-out that his language was unacceptable and told him that he might need help with his anger and alcohol issues. He has not spoken to any of us since that day. His family has “made other plans” for all family events. We would like to return to a harmonious family, but most of us want nothing to do with him unless he apologizes. We miss his wife and children, who are being walled off from us. We have invited him to all the family gatherings — no reply, no communication. Some family members are happy never to see him again. It’s quite awkward.
How should we approach this rift?
DEAR BROKEN: As a family, you should offer support to your brother concerning recovery, while not letting him manipulate you.
He has stomped away from the group. He promised to punish you, and now he is.
All you need to do is to say, “We miss you and your family. We hope you are well and will choose to return to the family fold. The door is open.”
You will likely never receive an apology until and unless he has embraced sobriety and acknowledges his own toxic behavior as part of a recovery process. Pushing for an apology will not hasten it.
You should also reach out to his wife separately to let her know that you would all like to see her and the children. You have no way of knowing what she might be going through.
Maintaining a neutral attitude is not condoning his drinking. Rather, you are conveying that he is responsible for the consequences stemming from his behavior. For the time being, you all might have to hope for harmony, but love him from a distance until he stops raging and can come home.
DEAR AMY: My husband runs a small business in which some of the work is done by subcontractors. He recently hired someone who is also a close friend of ours to do a job for him. Our friend presented my husband with substandard work. My husband was greatly disappointed. He let our friend know of his displeasure, but is now worried about how we’ll all get along with this friend and his family in social situations. How can he and the rest of our family best deal with the potential awkwardness of this unfortunate situation?
Want to Keep a Friend
DEAR FRIEND: The dynamic you describe is the main hazard in hiring close friends or family members to work in a family business. And yet, it is your husband’s duty to his other workers and clients to hold his work to a high standard.
It is laudable that you and your husband want to maintain the friendship. Your husband should chalk this up to being a “bad fit,” and consider the matter closed. Your husband can’t control the other man’s embarrassment or behavior, but he should express his desire to move forward with the friendship. You should be able to recover from this.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for pushing back at the people signing their question “Devoted and Caring Parents.” These parents were most concerned with how often their son and daughter-in-law would be with them on Christmas Day, even though the daughter-in-law had divorced parents who also wanted to see her. I was appalled at the selfishness of these people.
DEAR FAITHFUL: I had a huge response to this question. The great majority agreed with you.