DEAR AMY: My younger brother and I had a falling out, and he stopped all contact with me for about a year. In fact, he got married and I wasn’t invited to the wedding. I admit that the incident leading to estrangement was my fault. I don’t blame him for not talking to me. We reconciled, but our relationship has changed. It is not as close as it once was. I have lived abroad for almost four years. He’s still in the United States. I never hear from him unless he needs to know when someone’s birthday is or is asking for a family member’s phone number. I’ve asked a few times to FaceTime with him and he always has an excuse as to why he doesn’t want to. I’m spending $4,000 to go home and be a bridesmaid in his wedding (second marriage), but I feel like he would never spend that kind of money to attend my wedding (should I ever have one). If I stop making the effort to keep in touch, I feel like he would do nothing to change that. What can I do to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with my brother and other family members?
DEAR UPSET: In order to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with your brother and other family members, you will need to share actual experiences with them. Your choice to travel home for this wedding is a great one. The fact that he wants you to stand with him on his wedding day is a sign that he wants to acknowledge your important role in his life.
It is counterproductive — and a curious choice — for you to enter this experience, which is brimming with potential for all of you, and to already be keeping score.
If you can’t freely spend $4,000 without using this large expense as leverage against your brother, then don’t do it.
He could definitely do a better job at keeping in touch, but you two sharing this milestone experience will create common memories and might inspire a warming trend in your family, overall.
DEAR AMY: After my father died, my mother moved back to the area. She lives off of her Social Security and when she is short of money we help her out. We are glad to do this. It is simply understood that if she needs money all she has to do is ask and we will help her. Sometimes we will give her money without her asking, so that she will not feel awkward about it. Last week she received an invitation for a high school graduation for a distant nephew many times removed that she has never met, who lives across the country. We also received an invitation. My mother thinks that now she is obliged to send a check to the graduate. I think that sending an invitation to a widow on a fixed income for someone halfway across the country she has never met is simply a money grab. We will continue to help out mom, but it is a little frustrating when her money management decisions are poor. Do you think our distant relatives were sincere, or are they simply sending out invitations with the expectation of receiving gifts?
Not so Funny Money
DEAR FUNNY MONEY: If you are giving money to your mother, then you shouldn’t also control how she chooses to spend it. If you can afford to, it might be best if you set up a monthly auto-deposit to supplement her Social Security income. If she comes to you for more money, then you could talk to her about her choices.
I don’t consider giving a modest gift to someone as demonstrating poor money management. However, it is important for all of you to realize that receiving an invitation — or announcement — does not obligate you to send money or a gift. All that is required is for you to congratulate this distant cousin, and wish him well.
This might have been a “gift grab” (but you needn’t take the bait). Maybe they’re just really proud of their son!
DEAR AMY: I take issue with the letter from “Distressed Mom,” who thought her daughter was dating an alcoholic. While getting a DUI is a serious offense, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an alcoholic. I’ve been in this man’s shoes, and it may have simply been an isolated incident — as it was for me.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Absolutely. Thank you.