Dear Annie: I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family. I have an older sibling who has hated the rest of us for the past 45 years. Family gatherings are extremely uncomfortable events. Inappropriate barbs lead to physical fights, young children cry while the adults pretend nothing is amiss, family members spy on one another, there is lots of back-stabbing, and some relatives are ignored while others are fawned over. My mother allows her adult children to treat one another like animals and refuses to get involved in the chaos.
I am tired of this and will no longer let my children witness these destructive behaviors. Please let other parents know they should work to make their home a welcoming and loving environment. Is there anything I can do to counteract the hostility at these gatherings?
— Too Old for Hate
Dear Too Old: You cannot force your parents and siblings to behave in a civilized manner. The pattern in your family seems fairly well set, and no one else has much interest in changing it. You are smart to realize that your choice is to stay or leave.
Calmly explain to your family why you are walking out (or not attending), and make no apologies. We commend you for recognizing this dysfunction and not transmitting it to your children. But please consider letting the children see some of the relatives one-on-one, under your supervision. Kids are extremely tolerant of aberrant behavior in family members and can understand “this is how Grandma is” without emulating her.
Dear Annie: “Michael” and I are a young gay couple pondering marriage. Gay marriage is not performed in our state, and we realize it would not be recognized here. It’s the principle of the thing.
A courthouse venue seems the most feasible, and I am wondering whom to invite. Michael’s parents and siblings would most certainly be there, but I don’t know what to do about my side. I have no siblings, and my parents are divorced. Mom is fully supportive, but my father doesn’t know I’m gay. I would prefer not telling him in order to avoid a conflict.
My father would probably never find out that Michael and I are married if I don’t tell him myself. But if he did learn about it, he’d be upset. Then again, he’d also be upset to learn that I’m getting married. Should I tell him? Also, because my guest list is limited, should I invite best friends?
— A Ring on It
Dear Ring: We think you should tell your father, not only because keeping secrets can erode relationships, but also because you should not be hiding who you are. If you are mature enough to marry, it’s time to handle the fallout from your father. As for your guest list, invite those people you want to have as witnesses to your union, provided you can afford to do so.
Dear Annie: This is a response to “Feeling the Void in Indiana.” It was pretty brazen of him to claim to speak for all men when he said we feel incomplete without sex.
I’ll admit that is true for a lot of men, but certainly not all. I’m a healthy 30-year-old man with all the normal biological urges. I also haven’t been in a romantic relationship in years and am completely sexually inactive — and I feel fine about it. That’s because I put my energy into other things like working out and enjoying outdoor activities. And I have a few friends who are as OK without sex as I am. Sex is not the be-all and end-all of human existence.
As a last note, any man who cheats on his wife or girlfriend is a cad, whatever feeble excuses he comes up with.
— Abstinent and OK with It
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