(Illustration by Ben Claassen III)

My sister gets clingy and needy when she is depressed, but when she snaps out of it she drops me and couldn’t care less about how I’m doing. I cancel plans so I can hang out with her, but as soon as she gets over whatever she’s going through, she doesn’t make time for me. I have tried talking to her about it, but she doesn’t get it, or doesn’t seem to care. —Left Aside Sister

This is frustrating, I’m sure. But you have to adjust your expectations and prioritize what you’re really looking for in the relationship. If you accepted her as someone devoid of a reliable “being there” bone in her body, would you still be willing to support her when she needed it? Can you cultivate friendships that give you the emotional nourishment you need, and acknowledge it might never come from your sister?

The key question is how bothered you are by this imbalance. Millions of folks who love their families still need to look elsewhere and choose the people who best meet their needs. In short, can you take the high road and be the sister she won’t? If not, withdraw your support in a gradual and respectful way.

A godly father or a hypocrite?

My husband comes from a religious family and keeps up with the cultural traditions of his religion. We are talking about starting a family and he wants to raise the children within this religious tradition. The problem is he does not really believe in these things (nor do I) and yet is going to indoctrinate his kids to do so. He says it’s important in terms of family, community, etc., but I think it’s hypocrisy. —Bothered

You need to have deeper discussions about what “within this religious tradition” means. Is it the family, community and culture elements? Or is it the imparting of a specific faith in God or creation or flying spaghetti monsters that he would be lying through his teeth if he espoused? There’s room for a middle ground, if you can understand what parts mean the most to him and what messages he wants to send to your child.

And as much as many decry the “watering down” of religious elements into more secular traditions, this might be just what your family needs: a foundation of the history and good works that the religion provides, without the doctrine. It’s sure as heck better than worshipping Thanksgiving sales.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com.

Read more Baggage Check:

I graduated from college 10 years ago. So why don’t I feel like an adult?

Am I controlling if I want my girlfriend to wear her hair a certain way?

My friend’s a broken record about her broken heart. Can I say, ‘Get over it’?