The Skinny on Your Sister

My extremely thin sister is always commenting on how fat she is, and it gets very, very old. We all know she has food and body issues. She’s not interested in getting treatment, and we have given up on pursuing it. But I want to know how to handle her comments when they come up so I’m not encouraging this behavior. -Irritated Sis, Va

First, I’d urge you to keep up the talk of treatment. Don’t make the mistake of making it about how thin she is. You’ll be playing the same game she is by conflating who she is as a person with what the number is on the scale. “I know you don’t want to get help right now, but I still worry that you’re not being good to yourself” is much better than “You need to gain weight!” Sometimes continuing to plant the seeds of concern can pay off more than you realize: You say she’s not interested (like most people suffering from body image problems), but she may very well be listening.

As for the negative self-talk, saying, “You know it really bothers me to hear you talk like that; I don’t think I want to respond” or “I love you and will not listen to you put yourself down like that” should do the trick.

I’m With the Band (Too Often)

My girlfriend is a singer in a local band. She’s great, but is it realistic that she expects me to see all of her gigs? I work full time and take classes at night, and sometimes the last thing I want to do after I’m done is go into a dark, loud bar and hang out to see her band. She gets very pouty and disappointed if she hears that I’m not planning to see her, and it’s at the point now where I’m making up excuses, when really I just want to be home asleep or watching TV. -Trying to be Supportive

You need to have a general conversation — at a time when you wouldn’t otherwise be discussing her next performance. Explain to her what you explained here. You might soften it a bit by emphasizing how you feel like you can’t enjoy listening as much when you’re exhausted, rather than just wanting to catch reruns of “Law & Order.”

Then focus on what you will attend. Get out your calendars and try to work a few weeks ahead, have her prioritize which shows she most wants you to see, and don’t ever blow those off. You’ll have to work with her to come up with an attendance schedule that’s reasonable for both of you.

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