Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 48 years. We have endured really expensive medical issues over the past several years, and our funds are stretched to the limit.
We are both retired but still work about 20 hours a week. We used my retirement money to pay the many medical bills and have sold our new home to get into a less expensive home. I know that many have endured the same, and we are blessed to both be alive and well.
My question is about a family member who is very rich and brags about her wealth to us all the time. She is a sister who has made over and above what my husband and I have ever made. I am happy for her. However, even though she is well aware of our financial status, she will allow us to pay for her dinners when she’s in town and never helps or offers us a dime.
My husband and I have always been responsible with our finances and responsibilities and have never asked for anything from her. We have even worked both full-time and part-time jobs at the same time to be able to take a vacation once a year.
She has traveled around the world, has her home paid off and stays in a warm climate during the cold months of the year. She is almost 80 years old, has been blessed with good health all her life, is single and has no children. She states that she has put money in a trust for her brother but can’t believe he is still alive after all his illnesses.
Annie, she knows the financial state we are in. We have had to borrow money from our daughter to not go bankrupt. We are blessed to have her, too. Her aunt has never made an attempt to be caring as an aunt should be. She is the remaining relative in my husband’s family. (Our daughter graduated college, and we are very proud of her. Of course, her aunt was not there for her or us to help her with college expenses.)
I have made crafts for her, sent items to her and always invited her to our home, and she accepts but is not very friendly to me. She only likes my husband because he is her brother.
I don’t think she has ever liked me. I didn’t come from money, and I went to public school; she was a cheerleader at a private school. Guess I’m not in her class of people.
Could you help me to understand why and tell me what I could do about her attitude?
— Lost Without a Clue but Still Praying
Dear Lost: Don’t speculate about what she thinks of your station in life. You can’t know, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Anyone who would judge another person’s class has none.
As for the lopsided nature of your relationship, don’t hurt yourself bending over backward for someone who wouldn’t lift a finger for you. You’re not obligated to make your sister-in-law crafts. You’re not obligated to pay for her meals. You’re not even obligated to be her friend.
This isn’t about retaliation or spite. Quite the opposite. It’s about making peace with who she is, respecting your differences and giving yourself enough space to love her. Once you’ve stopped trying so hard, much of the resentment you feel toward her will melt away, even if her behavior hasn’t changed at all.
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— A native Californian, Annie Lane writes her Dear Annie advice columns from her home outside New York City, where she lives with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Her debut book, Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie, features favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette. Email your Dear Annie questions to email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.