Dear Annie: My sister died seven years ago, and within six months, my brother-in-law was dating. “John” stays in touch with my 96-year-old mother and gives her news of the grandchildren, now in their 20s. John and I never had a good relationship, and our contact consists mostly of his children’s upcoming milestones.
This past summer, John flew his new girlfriend into town to meet my mom. I thought that was insensitive. Then, at Christmas, he set up a system so his children can e-mail their grandmother and she will receive it via the regular postal system. It was a nice idea, but most of the letters have been from John, containing news of his engagement (replete with photos of the ring) and, most recently, information about his upcoming marriage and the extensive remodel of the house he shared with my sister.
These letters clearly were upsetting to my mom. For the 25 years my sister was married to John, she lived quite modestly. His children were shocked when he announced his plans to marry at their family Christmas gathering. The children had no idea, and it was quite painful for them.
I say John is acting immaturely. There is no need to give us all these details, especially my mom. I think he is being inconsiderate, insensitive and boorish, but Mom doesn’t want to rock the boat. Is it OK for me to e-mail John and ask him to please stop sending letters with the details of his love life?
— Enough Already Sister
Dear Sister: Yes, provided you can do it in a civil, semi-friendly way. Try this: “I appreciate that you are trying to keep us informed about your life. However, you may not realize how painful it is for us, especially my mother, to hear all the details of your upcoming marriage and home renovations. I know it is not your intention to hurt any of us, so perhaps you could share a little less information. Please know we all wish you the best.”
Dear Annie: I am a 57-year-old female, widowed twice. My adult daughter lives 30 minutes away.
I have a male cousin who is divorced and lives nearby. We have been spending time together and really enjoy each other’s company. My daughter thinks this is morally wrong and is giving me a lot of grief about it. She thinks if we had met by chance, it would be OK, but not if we are related.
I’m not entirely sure what the relationship is, but we are not first cousins. Our grandmothers were sisters. What do you think?
— Kissing Cousin
Dear Cousin: If your grandmothers were sisters, that makes you second cousins. We see no harm in dating your second cousin. It is not against the law, and we assume you are not planning on having children together, so there is no genetic prohibition. Our Biblical ancestors were often married cousins. We hope your daughter can get over her judgmental attitude and be happy for you.