Ask Amy: Nasty aunt causes a rift

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • May 24, 2013 - 1:41 PM

Dear Amy: I am the mother of five grown children and the grandmother of 13.

My husband has an unmarried sister with whom he has never gotten along. Over time the animosity toward him was transferred to me and our children. For 20 years she was overtly nasty to all of us, especially the children, causing them significant distress. Suffice it to say, she was never close to our family.

After my mother-in-law died, we stopped including this sister in our holidays and special occasions. Now, 25 years later, my daughter-in-law has decided to include this aunt when she hosts and has convinced one of my daughters to do likewise. This upsets me terribly. I am not trying to control their relationships with this distant aunt; obviously they are free to entertain her. I am just asking that she not be included when our immediate family (24 people) gets together on very special occasions and holidays.

Is this a reasonable request?

Amy says: You say you are not trying to control these other family relationships, and yet you are.

I realize this is tough, but you have an opportunity to demonstrate your own ability to tolerate and even reconcile, at least a little, with someone who has hurt you. If this in-law has not mellowed with age, she will show her true colors soon enough, and then the younger generation will be faced with the same tough choice you had to make.

Share the bad news

Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter from the mom whose son has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She wrote about not telling her parents the severity of that horrible illness.

Considering that the elderly parents could be easily upset and might not react well to bad news, your advice was right on. However, I remember my mother telling me several years before she died that one of the worst things she had to deal with was being excluded from news because someone thought she couldn’t handle it. She found this extremely insulting and very isolating. “Who do they think I am? I am an adult who has handled bad news in the past and can certainly handle it now!” were her words.

Let’s keep our elderly healthy citizens involved. They have had a lot of life experience, and can probably teach those of us not in our 80s or 90s how to react.

Amy says: I completely understand the frustration of older people who feel they are being isolated from upsetting news. I agree with your view that our elders can continue to mentor and teach us.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

© 2018 Star Tribune