Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hypothetical brother-in-law must be specific with complaint
Anonymous: (Regarding "How to Deal" in Monday's column, whose brother-in-law asked that she be excluded from a family gathering:)
I wonder what we would be thinking if the brother-in-law ("Bill") wrote in and said, "Love my brother dearly, but his wife is toxic, insert-unpleasant-personality-trait-here (criticizes everyone, negative, bigoted); can I ask him not to inflict her on the family, who all have the same reaction to her?"
I'm not saying yesterday's letter writer IS any of these things, of course, but just wondering what the advice would have been on the other side.
Carolyn: I think that would call for an honest conversation, WITH SPECIFIC and NONPETTY EXAMPLES of her OUTRAGEOUS DISPLAYS OF DISRESPECT between the two brothers.
A general example might be: "You're my brother and I love you, and it's painful to say this. Here is what I witnessed your wife doing last time we got together: (SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF HER OUTRAGEOUS DISPLAYS OF DISRESPECT)."
Then, "I can't just look the other way when she says/does these things to you/our mother/my spouse." And then, "So I'm asking you, if you were in my position, what you would do?"
That's the advice from the other side.
Sometimes breakups are best, so why not leave anger in past?
Anytown, Anywhere: I recently learned that my ex-husband, who divorced me about 15 years ago in large part because I couldn't have children, is remarried with four children, and the news has stirred up a lot of old, strong feelings. I'm happily remarried with a house full of cats, honestly enjoy the freedom of childlessness, and don't miss anything about the first marriage. I'm just resentful that the ex's shabby treatment of me seems to have gotten him what he wanted in life. Does this kind of anger ever go away? Is there any reason for it to? It's not like anger is ruining my life — I just don't like the (jerk) and don't wish him well.
Carolyn: You ask why the anger needs to go away, and I ask, why would you need to keep it? What good does it do?
I don't know how he treated you specifically but it does seem that, given the facts, you have room not to take his rejection personally, and let the anger go.
He wanted kids badly, and obviously meant it. So his choices were: (1) stay with you and always privately yearn; or (2) free you both to live according to preferences.
You, understandably, want to see a spouse as the person who stands by you during your most painful moment, and regards sacrifices as minor given the privilege of loving and supporting you.
But if he's gone, you're happy and you don't miss him, then it sounds as if you and your ex weren't that kind of mate to each other — and even if you could have children, your marriage might have faltered.
Sometimes what looks like shabby treatment is instead a necessary, if painful, seismic shift by two plates that aren't working well together. Seeing it that way might help you put it peacefully — even gratefully — back in the past.