Dear Annie: I am a middle child with two elder brothers, a younger sister and a younger brother. They all get together and have dinner and movie dates or hang out with one another. I am always excluded. No phone call or text. They have been rude and unwelcoming for more than 15 years now. No idea why. I have finally told them that I think they have treated me poorly and I don't consider them brothers. My parents are flabbergasted, as well. It has truly broken my heart. How do I let go? -- Pushed Away
Dear Pushed Away: Before you let go, let out your feelings. I know you mentioned that you told them what you think -- but was it in an angry and hurt way or in an honest and gentle way? You don't get to choose your family, but you only get one, so I am all for trying to work out your differences. Feeling excluded never feels good. The fact that your parents are flabbergasted leads me to believe that there is some serious communication issue at play here. Seek out the help of a professional family therapist who can resolve this sibling misunderstanding.
Dear Annie: Your column about the gossiping in-laws struck a chord with us. Some folks resort to backbiting and malicious gossip for vicarious excitement and because they don't have positive self-images. My sister-in-law falls into that category.
For many years, she seemed like a sister to me -- only I eventually found out the ugly rumors she had spread, about me and many others. She even tried to break up my marriage (to her brother) by saying I'd had affairs all over the world while on business trips.
I avoided her (we live out of state) for several years but then confronted her directly in private during a family visit. She cried and cried, apologized and said she was ashamed. We will never be close, but because she has advanced cancer, I have forgiven her.
Malicious gossip is a stealthy type of bullying, as your target is unaware of the slander. I liked your advice to "Betrayed" (to have her husband talk to his relatives), Annie, but direct confrontation shames the individual and puts the power back where it belongs -- with the victim. If other family members don't like it, so be it. We can pick our friends, but not family or in-laws. One would be better off without them all than walking on eggshells.
Your columns are great. Thanks for all you do. -- Florida Villages Reader
Dear Florida Villages Reader: You make a great point. Perhaps it would be more effective for "Betrayed" to confront her in-laws than for her husband to talk to them. Bullies must be held accountable. Thank you for your insight.
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