Dear Amy: Two years ago (before the pandemic), my husband and I went on a cruise with longtime friends. They then asked us to join them again.

The date is approaching, and we are having a huge problem letting my sister know we are going. My sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization.

My husband has been a saint in making her a part of all our vacations, dinners out, etc., with no complaint. But she is always whining about how she feels no one invites her to do anything.

We are at a loss on how to tell her we are leaving without her on this trip. Past experiences when this has happened have been incredibly unpleasant. She becomes very depressed and will go for weeks without speaking to us.

It makes us feel guilty for going without her, but we also believe that we are entitled to have our own life. There are many past familial issues with my mother who was mentally ill, leading to feelings of abandonment and guilt.

Is there any way we can tell her we are leaving for nine days without making her feeling left out and abandoned and leaving us feeling bad during the trip?

Amy says: Your sister is something of an emotional vampire, and your generosity toward her has enabled her to control you to the extent that you and your husband have already determined that you won't be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation without her.

If you don't have the backbone to tolerate your sister's tantrum, then you should just give in, stay home, and devote yourselves to her needs.

However, you might liberate yourselves from this control if you prepare yourselves for her reaction and simply choose not to be triggered by it this time. You say, "We're leaving for a cruise soon and will be gone for nine days. We're pretty excited and looking forward to it, and we'll see you when we return."

A tip on tipping

Dear Amy: My husband and I always have this disagreement whenever we go out for a meal. Do you base your tip on the total amount (like I do) or the amount before the tax (like my husband)? Please settle this for me!

Amy says: Strictly speaking, if you tip on the total (including tax), then part of your tip is based on the tax, not on services rendered.

However, I base my tip on the total, and then add some. I do this because I once waited tables. Also, because I can.

The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a table of minimum wages for tipped employees (which vary by state). Ask your husband to take a look at this chart (search on and ask if shaving a few pennies off of a tip from these truly minimal hourly rates is really worth it to him.

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