Annie's Mailbox: My spouse's siblings ask too many favors

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Dear Annie: My husband seems to be the "go to" guy in his family. He used to do carpentry work, and now his three siblings call on him for all their repair needs. He is asked to fix broken windows, install appliances and everything in between.

One of his sisters is quite wealthy. She lives out of state but owns property in our area. My husband keeps her apartments rented, hires painters, answers maintenance calls at any hour and does general upkeep. For these services, he receives nothing. Not one of his siblings has ever offered to pay him for work that, over the years, has saved them thousands of dollars. At the very least, wouldn't most people send a gift card for a free dinner?

I know my husband is at fault for never saying no, but his family is so domineering that he doesn't want to make waves. Our home needs work, too, but his time is taken away due to his siblings' demands. What makes people feel they are entitled to these services for free? All of them can afford to pay someone else to do the work. We are the ones who are not well off, yet we are catering to them, and they have yet to reciprocate with kindness or time for our family. The favors are totally one-sided. How can I help my husband get out of this mess?

- Seething

Dear Seething: Your husband must be willing to do this on his own. The easiest way is to make himself too busy to be so accommodating. That can mean joining a bowling league, basketball team, civic organization or church volunteer group, or even starting a small business as a part-time handyman. Then, when the relatives call, he can honestly say, "Sorry, but I'm too busy now. You should hire someone." Of course, if he refuses to do this, you'll have to make the best of it. He has to grow his own backbone.

Dear Annie: My brother's wife, "Brandy," is a compulsive liar. My family chooses to ignore it. At a recent family gathering, however, the conversation turned to politics, and Brandy and I had a heated argument. She contradicted herself multiple times, and when I accused her of lying, she stormed out of the house.

I phoned the next day and left a message saying I hadn't intended to upset her and we simply both have strong opinions. Later that afternoon, she sent me an e-mail claiming she never said those things and wants nothing to do with our family.

My parents contacted my brother, and Brandy apologized to them. My brother said he would continue to have a relationship with my parents, but not with me or my husband and child. I was going to call Brandy and tell her I accept that apology, too, but the more I think about it, the less I believe I can sit through family dinners with her.

How do I get past this? I miss my brother.

- Feeling Empty Inside

Dear Feeling Empty: Brandy may have a vague relationship with the truth, but confronting her only creates hard feelings and estrangements. You don't have to like every member of your family, but if you want to see your brother, you should make an effort to get along with his wife or, at the very least, not let her opinions get under your skin. There are repercussions when you accuse someone of lying, and one of them is that you need to swallow your pride and apologize to your sister-in-law for upsetting her.

Dear Annie: I am responding to "A Dad," who would like his daughter to be more active. Has he considered offering her dance lessons?

Dancing is a wonderful way to gain physical strength, enjoy music and develop physical confidence in a noncompetitive environment.

- Still Dancing at 62

Dear Still Dancing: Several readers suggested the girl take up dancing, and we think it's an excellent idea - provided, of course, that she has some interest in it.

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