DEAR AMY: My cousin’s daughter, who has always been like a niece to me, slipped into an addiction to prescription medication two years ago. During the period of time when she was addicted, she was working for me and my husband as a house cleaner. Not surprisingly, money, my husband’s prescription medications and other items went missing from our house. When this was discovered, we were very upset. We had just hosted her and her children on an all-expenses-paid vacation. She got help, got sober and started working the “steps” of her program. Although she has apologized to both of us, she seems to have the expectation that this is all that is necessary to make amends. She is behaving as if our relationship should now go on as before. This includes asking us for financial help. My husband is unambiguously clear — he never wants to have anything to do with her, ever again. My current contact with her is very circumscribed by my desire to respect my husband’s wishes. We do not live in the same city any longer, so opportunities to see her are extremely limited. I miss her and her children. In light of my relationship with her going back to her childhood, I struggle with the issue of whether I am being completely fair to her and her children by putting my husband’s feelings and needs first.
Another Family Upended by Addiction
DEAR ANOTHER FAMILY: Your husband isn’t really describing a need. He is simply declaring that his relationship with your cousin is over.
He has every right to insist that someone who has stolen from your household should stay away from the household. But this woman is your relative, and he doesn’t get to dictate the course of your relationship with her and her children.
You cousin’s recovery over her addiction is fairly recent, and if she needs to do more than simply apologize to you, you should let her know. The concept of making amends is an important one in recovery. She needs to work on this. The flip side of amends is forgiveness. This is something for you and your husband to work on.
She should not be hitting you up for money. And if she is able and willing to have a relationship with you without the promise of money, then you should consider ways to do this. Sending books to her and her children and conducting a correspondence with them could help all of you to stay relatively close.
DEAR AMY: I’m 62 and have two older sisters. Oldest Sister and I have always had a close relationship, while our relationships with Middle Sister have been strained for most of our lives. About two years before our mother died, Middle Sister, who had medical power of attorney, made arrangements in conflict with our mother’s wishes. I ended up hiring a lawyer to stop it. Because of this action, Middle Sister and her daughters disowned me. They also disowned Oldest Sister, because she and I are close. Fast-forward three years. Poking around Facebook, I found circumstantial evidence indicating that Middle Sister’s oldest daughter had a baby last year. My dilemma is whether to share this information with Oldest Sister, who doesn’t use social media. She and I are childless and had been “see-you-at-the-holidays” friendly with our two nieces prior to the fallout with their mother. On the one hand, I think Oldest Sister would like to know about the existence of this new member of the family; on the other hand, she’ll be upset that she didn’t receive a birth announcement or phone call with the news. Should I tell her about this baby?
DEAR OUSTED: Yes, you should tell her. It sounds as if this entire situation is already upsetting; but your sister should know whatever nuggets of information you know.
A new child in the family represents an opportunity for you both to reach out to the child’s parents, which might help to thaw this difficult freeze, at least between you and the younger generation.
DEAR AMY: “Feeling Protective” was worried about leaving her 3- and 5-year-old children with their elderly grandparents, who were staying in a place with a pool. Amy, those children should take swimming lessons. It is extremely important that young children learn to swim.
DEAR CONCERNED: I agree about the importance of learning to swim, but even with lessons, these two children are too young to be left near water without constant supervision.