DEAR AMY: My family has become somewhat torn over the past few years over what to do about this issue. Last year my adult brother openly declared his affiliation with an extremist political group and has taken to attacking members of my immediate and extended family over social media with degrading, misogynistic, racist and rude comments. Most have either unfriended, blocked or ignored him. He will also bring up his controversial opinions during family gatherings just to (using his words) “antagonize” people. My mother wants to keep lines of communication open so that it doesn’t come to a point where the only opinions he hears are from people on the internet who agree with him. The rest of my immediate family doesn’t really want to put up with him, but we understand her stance. What do you think? At what point should we cut him off? Do you think there is any hope to de-radicalize him?
Hoping for an Uneventful Thanksgiving
DEAR HOPING: I see your mother’s point, too. Your brother has used antagonism to silence family members. Think about how easy it has been for him to alienate everyone he fears has a different point of view. All he has to do is sling a few conspiracy theories and degrade people with hateful rhetoric in the easiest way there is — through the cowardice of social media.
I completely agree with blocking him on social media. I also think that you should make a concerted effort to calmly “love” him through this and dispassionately present your own point of view to counter his.
Don’t put up with put-downs, but do say, “Dude, you’re my brother. I think your views are completely out there, but you have a right to believe whatever you want. What you can’t do is be mean to family members.”
Your family might do best to adhere to a politics-free policy this Thanksgiving.
DEAR AMY: I am brokenhearted. I met my wife many years ago. It was love at first sight. Unfortunately, she had just gotten married. I kept my feelings to myself. Years passed and I got married, but I never forgot her, and eventually became good friends with her and her husband. One day I bumped into her and we started talking about our lives. Her life was not good because her husband turned out to be a heavy drinker. My life wasn’t good either because I was married to someone I did not love. She and I found love, left our spouses, and were so happy for 25 years, married to the loves of our lives. Everyone goes through some bad times, and about 26 years into our marriage, we did, too. I never cheated on her, but I started taking some anxiety medication that was not good for me. To this day my wife hasn’t forgiven me, and I don’t know what to do. It has been 10 years, and she treats me terribly. I’ve tried everything, but I can’t get her love back. We have been to counselors and clergy. I write to her every day to tell her how sorry I am, but she won’t give in. In fact, she says that my writing to her is harassing, and she wants to be left alone. She used to love me beyond words, but something just made her snap, and never come back. Without her love, I am a lost soul. Do you have any suggestions?
DEAR LOST: You have conveniently left out any detail of what you might have done that could have contributed to your wife snapping, and although your heartbreak is quite evident, your behavior is not helping.
I agree with your wife that 10 years of you writing to her every day is excessive. When someone asks you to stop doing something, you should stop.
My armchair diagnosis is that this daily letter-writing is your anxiety talking, and my main suggestion is that you pursue counseling and treatment on your own, in order to sort out your feelings and reactions, and to see if you could do things differently. You might not win back your wife’s affection, but you would probably feel better with the appropriate treatment.
DEAR AMY: “Flummoxed” wondered how to respond when people make cruel, self-deprecating remarks about themselves. When people talk themselves down, I try to offer this reaction: “It really hurts me to hear someone talk down about a friend of mine.” Get it?
DEAR FRIEND: I get it, and I like it.