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LifestyleColumnistsAsk Amy

Awkward family business leads to passive aggression

DEAR AMY: My husband and I got into a business arrangement with his brother and his wife. The dissolution of that business left a bad taste in his brother’s mouth, as one would expect. We have tried to remain cordial, although we only communicate through cards, as they live on the other side of the country. We were not close before the business and have heard through other family members that he still feels he got taken in the business venture. The problem is that we are godparents to one of their children. We try to respect that special status with a nice gift each year. Although this year our gift was received with an email “thank you” from the mother, we heard nothing from the girl (our niece), who will turn 30 soon. I sent a note requesting that she let us know whether she liked the gift we sent, but there’s still silence from the mother and the girl. They have been passive-aggressive in the past, but I would like your opinion as to whether I should even bother in the future. I have also sent a gift each year to her brother, even though we are not his godparents, as they have previously expressed he felt left out.

Lost in Communication Craziness

DEAR LOST: You accuse your relatives of passive aggression, but what you demonstrate seems more passive-aggressive on your part than theirs. It is as if you are using kind gestures to test them. And — big surprise — your in-law family members fail.

So far, one family member has thanked you for a gift. The wrong family member is thanking you, but — your kind gesture was acknowledged. Then, you decided to up the ante and insist that someone tell you whether the recipient liked the gift you sent. I suspect that you know these family members wouldn’t respond the way you wanted them to respond, but now you get to feel even more righteous.

If you want to try to clear things up with your brother-in-law and his wife, then you should openly attempt to address your very challenging business situation.

You should not send gifts to a 30-year-old woman who doesn’t acknowledge your gifts (or your existence). The godparent relationship is not meant to confer quality gifts for life. These gestures seem to be creating a lot of awkwardness, and so you should quietly stop.

DEAR AMY: My son is getting married soon, and everything is wonderful. The problem is me — I am a crier. I cry excessively at sad and happy occasions (even puppy food commercials choke me up). I do not want to take attention off of my son and his bride, and I don’t want people to worry about me, but I know I am going to sob and sob. Just thinking about the mother/son dance makes me cry. To make it worse, when I cry, my son, who is very compassionate, gets teary too. Do you or your readers have any strategies for people who are extremely emotional like me that will help me keep it together? I do not want to ruin the pictures, my makeup, the day or cause my son to become emotional as well. Thank you. Your help is much appreciated!

Crier

DEAR CRIER: I’m happy to ask readers to help you with this.

My own advice is to stay sober, practice, practice, practice — and don’t wear mascara.

Practicing moments like this is akin to putting yourself through a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. You simply expose yourself as much as you can to the trigger event, in order to “normalize” it, so that you can control your own emotions in the moment — at least to some extent. In this case, you would force yourself to imagine these events, deeply think them through and practice feeling these feelings while staying calm.

Deep-breathing techniques can also help to focus your mind (and emotions) during challenging times.

Also — some tears at weddings are natural, expected and appropriate. Perhaps you can save them for the dance.

DEAR AMY: “Carol” wrote to you, expressing her concerns about babies and young children she would see with their noses pressed to various screens (iPads and phones). She didn’t have children, but felt compelled to help strangers raise theirs. This reminded me of my favorite quote about parenthood: ”I was the perfect parent, until I had children.”

Not Perfect

DEAR NOT PERFECT: How true! Thank you.

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