Q. My brother-in-law is determined to see the negative in everything, no matter what. I know he loves my sister, but he rains on her parade all the time. She then makes fun of herself that she is “too chipper” and it becomes a joke that she’s like a balloon that he has to bring down to earth (or even pop). Every time I hang out with them, it’s the same dynamic. She wants to make travel plans or compliments something we see on TV or has a fun story about her work, and he comments how it’s too expensive/not realistic/her boss is still a jerk. I don’t know how she puts up with it, and it makes me want to smack him! —Annoyed Sis
You don’t know how she puts up with it, yet that’s pretty much the key. How does she really feel? Maybe she takes it with a grain of salt; perhaps it’s their shtick. Maybe she even finds it endearing. You could broach it with her, but unless you see evidence that it’s truly harmful to her or it’s part of a larger pattern of controlling or emotionally toxic behavior on his part, it’s hard to justify doing much about it in terms of their relationship. (She may just be content with her Eeyore.) That said, you are free to develop your own relationship with your brother-in-law, shutting him down respectfully when you feel his comments are rude, challenging him where you see fit, or sometimes just abstaining from the dinner/hangout/Netflix binge — especially if it helps you resist the urge to smack him.
After sex, I need some alone time
Q. I tend to feel very emotional after physical intimacy. It’s usually like vulnerability, feeling very exposed and sometimes tearful. I do not feel very sad per se, but just intense and sometimes like I am going to cry. I have become the opposite of the stereotypical girl who wants to cuddle because I actually want to get away and be by myself. I’m dating someone I really care about and don’t know how to do this without hurting his feelings. —Broken Open
If you really care about this person, you’ve got a great opportunity in not pushing him away. Of course, you don’t have to suddenly open the floodgates and let him in to something that you don’t feel comfortable with. But if you want a chance to connect, this is it. Feeling vulnerable after sex is not something to be ashamed of — in fact, it’s probably evolutionary in order to encourage bonding, and the mind-body connection is such that this might be unlocking pent-up feelings that you’re holding in during daily life. If you try to figure out why you want to be by yourself during those times (Embarrassment? Awkwardness? Fear of getting hurt?), it can help you understand what you’re guarding against. But ultimately, if you want to grow your relationship with this person, it would be tough to do so if you keep disappearing — emotionally and physically — during times of such potential connection.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.