With Sara coming for the holidays, "Ally" told Diva to be nice to her. This infuriated Diva, who has now sworn she will never forgive Ally. She has blocked her phone and email. They used to be very close. Diva's husband always goes along with her on this, so now Sara and Ally are his sworn enemies, too. This is making family get-togethers very uncomfortable; Diva often says she won't come if Sara is there, and now probably Ally as well.
Right now Diva is speaking to me, and I'm sure if I say anything, I'll be on her forever-bad list, too. Our mother thinks Diva is in the right, and that we are all trying to make the family choose between Diva and Sara.
— We Have a Diva
We Have a Diva: Attention to any diva is oxygen to a fire.
So from now on, for all planning purposes, none of Diva’s (or anyone’s) furies will be recognized or accommodated. Everyone is invited to whatever the family does, and each sister decides for herself whether to show up. No one “makes” anyone do anything.
Suggest this to your other sisters, too, if they also host. Say it is to ease your mother’s mind. The deniability built in is priceless: “No one’s choosing for anyone else, Mom. All are welcome.”
You needn’t mention that it’s also to preempt your mother, or anyone else seeking leverage.
If someone asks what others’ plans are — i.e., checks if the coast is clear — then just say what you know without editorializing.
You don’t make anyone choose anything.
You don’t tell anyone to behave any way around anyone, or apologize to anyone, or not apologize to anyone.
You are civil to all.
You are where all drama goes to die.
Unless there’s open, in-person bad behavior, from anyone, which you calmly stand up to.
If any would-be divas read you as a poor audience for her theatrics, then indeed refusing to show up may be the best play for attention. Deny all even that brief limelight with the same drama-neutralizing equanimity you bring to the planning: “I’m sorry to hear that. Yell if you change your mind.”
Make the battle so boring that it’s hardly worth the fight.
Dear Carolyn: My son the cardiologist has an affluent lifestyle and I am having trouble keeping up. I am retired and have to watch my finances carefully. How can I tell my son I am unable to fly down this time to play golf at yet another exclusive golf club, without incurring his wrath and disappointment? I am reluctant to explain that I am still paying off the last time.
C.: “Wrath,” because you can’t afford something? What is wrong with him?
And are you just finding this out?
If the answer is “nothing,” then you have nothing to fear from just stating plainly that you can’t afford another trip. He’ll understand.
If there is a compassion problem (cardiologist, heal thyself?), then I still advise telling him the truth. Just do it knowing the only meaningful deficit here is in his character, not your wallet.
Not that that will be of any solace to the person who raised him, but, still — better to face him late than never, than to keep tiptoeing around him in fear.
Dear Carolyn: I have a friend who wants a lot more of my time than I am able or willing to give her. Every time I do see her, she references how it's been so long since I've last seen her.
I've tried multiple times to discuss it with her. I've let her know it's not personal, I work a lot, I spend much of my time with family and I really enjoy alone time. She changes the subject every time.
I find her expectations frustrating but am struggling with how to change this dynamic.
Frustrated: Stop treating “It’s been so long!” as an expectation you have to justify not meeting. Don’t complete unhealthy transactions.
Instead, treat it as an observation you can either validate or ignore.
She: “It’s been so long!”
You, Option 1: “It sure has — catch me up on everything.”
You, Option 2: “It’s great to see you,” or, “You look well,” or your non sequitur of choice.
She’s the one changing the subject, after all, when you try to explain yourself; maybe she doesn’t expect as much as you think.