Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Death in the family redefines the family

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Earlier this year, my partner of more than 20 years died of brain cancer. Every day is still very hard.

For almost all of those 20 years, we typically spent the holidays with his mother and father and his siblings and their children. (Both of my parents are deceased, and my only brother lives in Europe.)

We typically went to one of their houses, and even hosted a few times. I became close with all of them, and the kids even called me "Uncle."

Since his funeral, the contact I have had with his family has been very minimal. I checked in with them a few times this year over email, sent birthday cards and gifts to the kids and even offered to host dinner. They declined all of my attempts to see them, so I figured they were still grieving, and did not push too hard.

I ran into my partner's sister one day, and asked if they were planning to get together for the holidays this year. She was very uncomfortable, and said that they decided they were only going to do "close family" this year, and not do anything "too large." I asked her if I should plan to be there, and she said "probably not."

I am very hurt. I considered these people family for a long time, and now feel like they want nothing to do with me, and that I never existed in the first place.

Several friends gave me the advice that I should tell them how I feel, and let them know how disrespectful they are being to their own son's memory, but I also know they have had a hard year, too.

What do I do here?

-- Grieving

Dear Grieving: I agree with your friends in their counsel to be open about your feelings.

I disagree about chastising these family members, however. You are justified, to be sure, but I just don't think it is useful to tell other people how to behave, while it can be useful (and helpful to you) to tell them how their behavior makes you feel.

Here is some suggested wording: "Since 'Dean's death I have coped with my own sadness and extreme grief -- and I know you have, too. I have always considered you to be family members, and my connection to you has been a refuge during a very sad time. I'm so sorry to note that this connection seems to be fading, because I sincerely believe that we could help and comfort one another now."

Dear Amy: I recently met a guy online. We've been going out for about five weeks. We've been on four dates. We're not in a committed relationship, but he's not being upfront about the fact that he's seeing (and probably sleeping with) other women.

Because we are not exclusive, he and I have not slept together and I have told him that we won't unless we are exclusive.

He has made up different excuses for his unavailability. I've confronted him about this but he seems to continue doing it. How should I handle this?

-- Not Easy

Dear Not Easy: Actually, it sounds as if this guy has been fairly upfront about the fact that he is not exclusive with you. You have obviously discerned this somehow, because you have stated your own nonnegotiable about it.

You just don't seem to like his answer.

Perhaps you should just go ahead and assume that when he is not available to you, he is with other women. It is possible that he is doing what you are doing -- dating around. That's sort of the whole idea, isn't it? To meet and date different people until you find the best match?

If he was really into you, he would want to be with you, and you wouldn't wonder where he was or how he felt.

However, four dates really isn't a lot of time to figure out how you feel, unless you are a guy feeling pressured to become exclusive before you are ready. In that case, four dates is plenty.

Dear Amy: I was infuriated by the issue presented by "Feeling Taken Advantage Of," whose brother always chose to fly into the airport furthest away from the house, forcing someone to drive for several hours to retrieve him.

This selfish jerk should get an Uber or cab to deliver him.

-- Infuriated

Dear Infuriated: Sometimes, flying into the closest airport is the most expensive choice, but I agree that this brother was being selfish.

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(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)

 

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