Carolyn Hax: A dying relative; a defensive sibling; tenuous relationship status

Carolyn Hax
Columnist October 10, 2012

Dear Carolyn:

My grandma is dying — they found cancer too late. She went from being moderately healthy to having only a couple of months left. I live 10 hours away by car. My sister lives six hours away by plane. Neither of us knows when to be there or how to know. My parents avoid sharing unpleasant news.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Do I go now while she is still doing pretty well? Later? Thanksgiving? I am talking to her regularly and afraid I will make the wrong choice.

Grief and Anxiety

There is no too soon; there’s only too late. Visit your grandma as soon as you can for as long as you can, and more than once if you can. I’m sorry.


Dear Carolyn:

My brother is incredibly defensive about his wife, so I have stopped being honest in my conversations with him about his life choices. Those choices are usually desperate attempts to make her happy, which seems an unlikely outcome as she has (in my opinion) an anxiety disorder and is always incredibly agitated and upset. My brother and I used to be close and would have spoken honestly. Is pulling all my punches the best or only way to go in this type of situation?

Arm’s-Length Sibling

Saying nothing (beyond, “Hey, I’ve missed you, let’s have lunch”) is honest, too — and it makes listening possible.

Listening will encourage your brother to come to his own conclusions, which are the only ones he’s ever going to act on.

When he asks, answer truthfully, sure. When he doesn’t ask, assume he already knows.

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend of two years asked me if I wanted to go on a cruise with him. I said no, because I had other financial obligations. He said okay, he would go alone as a Christmas gift to himself!

Interesting. I have not said a thing. I paid fully for two vacations, one to Key West and the other to New York City. What does this say about our relationship?

This is the same man who tells me that we are a couple and we do nothing alone.

What are your thoughts? Is it finally time for me to say goodbye?

Rather Confused

Apparently, but not just because he’s cruising alone; many couples embrace occasional solo travel. On its own, his “Christmas gift to himself” is more of a forehead-slapper than a deal-breaker, with an easily made counterpoint: “Ouch. I gladly paid for your Key West and New York trips. I’m really hurt.” Then he’d have a chance to say his piece, which would likely answer your is-it-finally-time question.

The reason you needn’t work that hard for your answer: This man “tells me that we are a couple and we do nothing alone”? Wow. You know the context, but without it, it sounds suspiciously like the last thing someone says to you before you break up with him or her. It’s a statement of ownership — of you — that foreshadows abuse. Short of that, you still have a guy whose rules bend to his own advantage.

You don’t even need this many words to get your answer, though: When you put “finally” in the “Is it time to break up” question, that’s the only word you need.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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