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Q. My older sister was terrible to me growing up and in early adulthood. She excluded and mocked me whenever possible and was the classic “mean girl.” She never showed any interest in my life or my special occasions or otherwise made it seem like she cared. We are in our early 40s now and my husband and I have just purchased a second home at the beach. Of course my sister is contacting me all the time now, expecting to use it whenever she wants, even speculating that she’ll invite people there. I want to say “no” outright. Or even charge her rent! But I don’t want to be as mean as she’s been.
It’s certainly not “mean” to protect yourself against being used, or to decline to grant a free beach vacation to someone who’s treated you poorly for decades. The question, to me, is not what she deserves (easy: a polite “Unfortunately, it’s not available for that”), but rather what chances you want to give your relationship in the future. If she were ready to change — whether due to maturity and reflection (yay!) or as an act, in order to get some time on the sand (boo!), would you want to give that new person a chance? If so, that’s admirable. But I’d urge you to give your feelings some air time first and get her to at least reckon with the position she’s put you in. (“I’m surprised you’re expecting that. We haven’t been close, and to be honest, I haven’t felt this level of interest from you before.”)
Do I walk away after 45 years?
Q. I am realistically wondering if there’s a point where someone has been in a marriage so long that it makes sense to stay, even if it is dysfunctional. I am in my late 60s, married for 45 years, and the companionship is worth something to me. But my husband has always been inconsiderate and belittling. I’ve thought about leaving throughout our marriage, but there was always a reason to put it off. As I find myself seriously considering whether to walk away after almost 50 years, it seems misguided to be alone through older age. I’m not sure I’d be happier.
There’s no crystal ball, of course. You could leave and be lonely enough that you feel nostalgic for the belittling (ugh). Or you could stay and feel more and more trapped, with the sting of the freedom you gave up getting almost unbearable. Or you could leave and be happier than you’ve been in half a century. The only thing close to certainty here is that you aren’t happy in your marriage now, and (at least in my book) a partnership lacking basic consideration is not a status quo to accept, no matter how long it’s become ingrained. Does he know what’s at stake? Would that make him try to change? Have you ever tried counseling together? Risk tolerance varies among individuals, but in my world, to not try to change things up and see what it leads to would lead to regret. As scary as the unknown is, not trying for a better arrangement seems scarier.