The problem: My youngest brother has been married for 20 years. My sister-in-law never responds to any form of communication, be it a phone call, e-mail or text. If I send an e-mail and, later, ask why she hasn’t responded, she says her server was down. She always has an out. She’s nonresponsive to other family members, too. She reads a lot, has an active, intelligent mind, and can be very engaging. I’ve tried to be at ease with her reticence, but it has finally worn thin. I feel rejected, and it hurts.
Low road: Send the Geek Squad over, unannounced, to fix that server — stat!
High road: You say she is a poor communicator but, in fact, she has been communicating quite clearly for two decades. For whatever reason, she’s been trying to tell you that she doesn’t enjoy banter. Keeping up with a steady stream of e-mails, phone calls and texts from extended family could, in fact, be causing her stress and anxiety.
I understand that being shut out hurts because you, a more social animal, likely envisioned a different scenario: A sister-friend with whom you could chat about books, take walks and complain about her husband. (Just kidding on that last one.)
Please don’t take her radio silence personally. As a wise friend once told me, you can’t give what you don’t have. She’s not going to change, but you can. Let go of what you wished for (it’s exhausting and self-defeating) and build on what is.
Stop asking whether she’s going to show up for family events. If she appears, tell her how great it is to see her. If you’ve read a book you think she’d enjoy, send it to her with a warm note. Do this because it’s kind, and not because you expect anything in return. And please keep lines of communication open with your brother who, if he doesn’t feel judged, may offer helpful insight into his wife’s behavior.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad