Dear Annie: My beloved sister, "Dawn," died last year following a long battle with cancer. Her husband of 43 years was a caring and capable caregiver. At the memorial service held in their church, "John" spoke tearfully of their love.
Ten years ago, their marriage was rocked by John's affair with an old classmate. They went through counseling and worked things out, but there were times when Dawn suspected he was unfaithful. She stayed with him, however, and before she died made me promise to remain on good terms with John and continue to include him in family gatherings.
However, just four months after her death, John began seeing "Mary." She is now his constant companion, staying in his home and even going with him on vacations that Dawn would have loved. He has brought her to church and introduced her to friends. This has broken our once-close family.
Dawn's oldest son no longer speaks to his father because of what he claims is "ample evidence" that John was unfaithful during his marriage. I have tried to keep an open mind, even meeting Mary, but my siblings have concluded that John's relationship with her is a slap in the face to our sister and has made a mockery of their marriage. My siblings will have nothing to do with either of them.
How do I remain faithful to the promise I made to my sister when I am heartsick with what John is doing? I realize his love life is no longer my business, but how do I get past the feelings of disgust and anger that the two of them sleep together in the bed my sister died in only four months ago?
Dear Heartbroken: Some widowers are so lonely that they often find companionship much sooner than the rest of the family thinks is decent. Please try not to judge John for this. The promise you made to Dawn does not mean you must be chummy with John and Mary. It means you should continue to invite John to occasional family events (not all of them) and stay in touch. Anything more is entirely up to you.
Dear Annie: My sister is two years older, and we share a lot of the same interests. The problem is, she likes to go into my room and take whatever she wants. I have asked her many times to stop, but she won't. I asked my parents about buying a lock for my room, but they don't think it's such a great idea. They offered instead to find a suitable punishment for my sister, but it hasn't made any difference.
My parents have suggested I hide my stuff, but why should I have to hide things because of her? What can I do?
— Frustrated Sister
Dear Frustrated: It is quite common for siblings to annoy each other this way, and usually, in time, it stops. But parents need to set and enforce the rules. Your parents did not find a "suitable" punishment, because it didn't work. They need to try something else. In the meantime, buy your own lock and use it to keep your valuables protected in a closet.
Dear Annie: "Not Looking Forward to Easter" said her mother demands that she spend every holiday with her — without her husband, who is not welcome in her home.
In the past seven years, my daughters have taught me to not be a demanding mother, expecting them to do as I think they should. As adults, my daughters have the right to live their lives as they choose.
Hopefully, this mother will stop complaining and demanding so she can have a good relationship with her daughter and grandchildren. By allowing her daughter that freedom, their relationship will improve, and the respect will be freely given between them.
— Learned That
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