Dear Ellie: When I became single after my marriage breakup, I felt lost and lonely though divorce was inevitable. We’d gone separate ways emotionally when our daughters were born. I was 25, besotted with our twins. My ex was submerged in his work.
At 30, I got a job, met new friends, dated randomly. But I didn’t know the current signals. I had sex with someone I barely remember.
Now, I’ve discovered that the man is a close relative of my exes’ new wife. I feel sick about it. There’s the possibility of meeting if there’s an event where all of us are present. Do I pretend I don’t recognize him, or just not attend…?
Sex with a Stranger
Stay cool. It never happened again. He may not remember (sorry).
As a single, you’re free to meet, date, have sex or decline. Now, you can create your own “comfort rules” about future dating, and rebuild your own self-esteem.
Dear Ellie: My sister and I are in our early 60s. She doesn’t handle stress well, e.g., paying bills, calling a plumber, going to the doctor.
She doesn’t like driving, refuses to use GPS then gets lost on unfamiliar routes. She won’t use online banking, relying only on ATMs and in-person service.
She dwells on how frustrating things are, rehashing past problems that have long been solved. Every small task becomes a huge challenge.
She also doesn’t sleep well, frequently waking at 3 a.m. By afternoon she’s already exhausted, but won’t nap, or seek possible solutions.
She gets increasingly impatient, agitated and short-tempered. If there’s a topic or question she doesn’t like, she ignores you.
She says she’s always busy (though retired). She’s in a financially stable situation.
I live far away. The last time I visited our elderly mom and her, she wanted me to drive but repeatedly panicked when there was a car or pedestrians crossing.
She feels unappreciated and has low self-esteem. She feels that she ‘can never do anything right.’ Our mom still favours our other sister, who lives overseas. Sadly, the least favourite child is caring for our elderly mother now. She lives in an age-care facility, but she can be demanding. I sometimes feel guilty for having moved far away over 25 years ago.
This sister and I used to be relatively close, communicating frequently on WhatsApp. But since my last visit several months ago, she’s turned even more reclusive, seldom answering my messages. How can I help her?
My Anxious Sister
You have good intentions and instincts, recognizing that this sister has had little support from the rest of the family, including her own mother.
But it’s unrealistic for you to take on, correct or seek solutions to all of her fears, discomforts, and fixed ideas. That goal will only frustrate you and widen the gulf between you.
She sees a doctor who doesn’t think she has sleep apnea (as you thought), she’s financially stable, and enjoys small talk with people she trusts (at her bank).
Hers wouldn’t be your preferred lifestyle, but she apparently manages her tasks, however nervous she may be.
Stay in contact when possible. If there’s increased signals that she’s withdrawn from you, consider another visit together, and also seek permission from her and her doctor to discuss any serious medical needs.
You’re not responsible for your sister’s every worry and frustration, but her general health and well-being obviously matter. Since you’re her main or only family connection, she’s lucky for your caring.
FEEDBACK regarding the woman who met a friend’s brother on a hike (Nov 25):
Reader – “I think that your advice should have included that, in order to find any partner, whether it be through proactive intention or by chance, one must be willing to take a chance.
“This is true of every date I ever had and it must be done within the boundaries of agreeing on a good agenda for the date, common sense and a feeling of safety.
“Beyond that, I always realized that referrals are golden. The fact that this is a close brother of a female friend is a green light from many perspectives.
“In today’s world of social media, it is not necessarily considered improper to use these mediums (of referrals and feelings of safety) to contact someone, especially if they live out of town.
“And it’s far safer today than having one’s private contact information shared.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
We may not always seek or enjoy being a troubled sibling’s support person. But the instinct from within reflects kindness and caring.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org