Ben Claassen III (For Express)
Express Advice Columnist

Don’t miss the next live chat: Dr. Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been helping readers with Baggage Check since 2005, hosts a weekly live chat at on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. She discusses her recent columns and answers any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more. Join or read Dr. Andrea’s latest live chat here.

Q. I’m 28 and have had a close set of friends of several years. I have a new-to-the-area co-worker who’s smart and funny, so I welcomed her into this group and everyone hit it off. But lately I have gotten a vibe from her that she wants to do things with my friends without me. Part of this is because they share an interest in a certain type of music that I am not into. Concerts without me are one thing, but now I feel like she is trying to poach my friends, as I wasn’t invited to a couple of casual hangouts. I feel hurt and confused but also sort of petty about this, but I also don’t want her taking my friends away.

I know this stings, but with a whole group to choose from, it might be time to start cultivating individual relationships rather than over-focusing on the in-versus-out mentality. They share taste in music; what activities of your own might you share with one or two of them? It could be that the casual hangouts were not meant to exclude you — perhaps there was a logistical or communication kink — or yes, it could be that there’s more deliberate poaching going on. Either way, your best bet is to keep initiating social experiences you want to have, and keep nourishing the particular connections that you most enjoy. View it as a question of who best fits you — rather than whether you fit in.

The brother beyond the wall

Q. My brother has cut me and my family out of his life after a relatively small disagreement. He’s always had anxiety and anger issues, but this multiyear estrangement is next-level. He didn’t acknowledge my son’s birth, tell me he got married or acknowledge the gifts we sent when he had a child. My parents think he’s taken it too far but won’t tell him that out of fear of repercussions. I’m starting to resent that too. Do I just take this all on the chin and accept that my family is essentially split in two? When my parents show me pictures of his child it is breaking my heart and also making me very angry.

I am sorry. At some point, acceptance of this — and letting yourself grieve it — will help you regain control and protect yourself from false hope. For clarity, it could be worth one last reconciliation attempt. Not that you owe him that, but it would be your chance to let him know that you need to move forward. You could say that you still want your families to be in each other’s lives, it saddens you you’re not, and you’re willing to work with him to move forward together. But that this will likely be the last time you reach out for a long while because it hurts too much otherwise. If it’s a final no, you’ll need to accept your parents’ choice as well — and give yourself permission to protect your feelings by focusing on your own family’s relationship with them, even if it means a however-long embargo on the painful topic of his family.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at

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My longtime partner never does anything for our anniversary. Should I just give up on this?

My mom still makes a big deal out of her birthday. And she’s in her 70s.