DEAR AMY: I recently learned that my younger sister is dating a married man. They’ve been dating for many months. Of course, he claims that he was never in love with his wife, etc. They have children. She portrays him as the victim, trapped in an unhappy marriage. They seem to be dating openly. Her friends have met him and their co-workers know about the relationship. My sister claims that he recently told his wife he wants a divorce. I have a very hard time believing or respecting anyone that would disrespect their marriage so outwardly. My sister has stood by me through all of my many past relationships and trials, and now she wants me to not judge her, and to respect her decision to move forward and continue in this relationship. I am having such a hard time, knowing that there are nameless/faceless people on the other side of this equation. I’m a mother of young children and can’t help but imagine what it would be like for them if their father cheated on them. I’ve also witnessed the divorces of friends and family and I know how messy things can get. I just don’t think she’s thinking this through. What advice do you have for a worried sister?
DEAR SLEEPLESS: You will lose less sleep if you embrace the fact that your sister’s relationship really has nothing to do with you. This might be what she is trying to get at when she asks you not to judge her.
You see this relationship as flawed and unethical (I do, too). Your sister is a party to the pain caused by infidelity and the possible breakup of a marriage.
If your sister asks for your endorsement, you need only state your own truth: “I want you to be happy, but your happiness seems to be contingent on other people getting hurt. I believe that this is unethical.”
You don’t have intimate knowledge about this man’s marriage (she doesn’t, either).
Be extremely circumspect. Don’t speculate about the future (the future is her problem). If this couple ends up together, long term, you may have to face him as a family member. You don’t need to agree with or endorse this relationship, but you may have to accept it.
DEAR AMY: I am a 61-year-old happily married woman with two grown sons. Several years ago I took an early retirement in order to be available to my recently widowed mother. I have one brother who is also married with his own family. He sees my mother every other Sunday for breakfast. He presents as a narcissist: He is the best son, his family is the best, his wife is great, etc. Because of his general attitude and blatant disrespect for me and my family, I have chosen to disengage from him and not have any contact. How do I tell my mother?
DEAR HAD IT: The basic hallmarks of narcissism are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. Your brother might be a narcissist — or he might be a guy who simply loves his own life.
You have the right to disengage from your brother, and you don’t even need to justify it, either to him, your mother, or anyone else.
If your mother asks you for an explanation about your relationship with your brother, you can tell her, “He and I don’t really see eye-to-eye. He doesn’t seem very interested in me or my life, but if he is good to you, then I’m happy about that.”
I hope you can find a way to establish a separate peace, understanding that — despite his fine opinion of himself — your brother is flawed. You don’t need to be friends, but you are siblings. As your mother ages, you will occasionally be forced to deal with each other. It would be easiest for you if you could find a detached and cordial way to communicate with him, without really caring too much what he thinks of himself — or you.
DEAR AMY: I laughed at your politically correct answer to “New Girl with a Moral Dilemma,” who reported that her co-workers are racist. She didn’t offer one example of their alleged racism, and yet you took her side. You should have suggested that she befriend these co-workers and attempt to understand them.
DEAR LAUGHING: Well, maybe these co-workers should befriend “New Girl,” instead of shunning her over her own progressive views.