Dear Annie: I’m an identical twin and will be turning 56 in February, but my sister behaves more like my daughter than my sibling.
Annie, I’m sick of it! My twin sister turned her back on me, believing ridiculous lies told by my youngest brother. Several years later, she showed up out of the blue needing a place to live, knowing “Old Sis” would take her in. She lived with me for eight years until she got a job transfer. She still calls wanting money. I’ve learned how to make excuses, but I want it to stop.
I need help being upfront with this mooch of a sister, but I’ve never confronted anyone before in my entire life. Any advice?
-- Sister of a Mooch
Dear Sister: You don’t need to be confrontational. You need to be assertive. Your sister takes advantage of you because you permit it. The easiest way to stop permitting it is to learn to say no. So when she asks for money, tell her, “I’m sorry, but not this time.” If she asks why not, reply, “I have loaned you enough.”
Practice saying it in front of a mirror until it comes naturally. Write it down on a piece of paper and tape it next to your phone so it is on hand when she calls. You are under no obligation to give her excuses, evasions or explanations. Be polite, but just say no.
Dear Annie: I have been widowed for 19 years and belong to a support group of women who go out to lunch once a month.
Before I married my late husband, I was an independent businesswoman, cared for an elderly parent, paid my own bills, pumped my own gas, bought my own cars, etc. I was surprised to learn how few of the women in my group know how to do any of these things. They have no clue what their family finances are. One of them had to learn how to drive when her husband died.
Please, please, please tell wives (and husbands) to take responsibility for themselves while their spouses are still living and learn what their financial obligations are, when their bills are due, how to pump gas and all the other things you will need to know to be independent.
It is hard enough to transition from married life to widowhood without having to learn basic life skills at the same time.
-- Been There, Knew How To Do That in Kentucky
Dear Kentucky: Thank you for the knock on the head. Along with financial matters and pumping gas, both men and women should know how to cook a simple meal, sew on a button, iron a shirt, load the dishwasher and do the laundry. These are skills that everyone needs, and it is shortsighted to assume that someone else will handle them for you for the rest of your life.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Uncomfortable,” whose new mother-in-law wants her to call her “Mom.” I had a similar problem when my son married his wife. I love her dearly. One day, I wrote her an email and signed it, “Love, Your ‘Other’ Mom.” She responded to me in that same way. Now, after several years, she is able to call me “Mom.”
When my own mother passed away, I found it difficult to think of another person as my mom. Now, I have friends whose mothers are still living, and I often refer to a few of them as “my other mother.” One of these special moms phones me every now and then and refers to me as her “other daughter.” I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I hope this helps “Uncomfortable” refer to her mother-in-law in a less awkward way.
-- Been There