Dear Annie: I've been married to "Bob" for 10 years. This is a second marriage for both of us. Bob has no children of his own and has been a fantastic stepfather to my grown kids. Bob has one sister, "Elsa," who is 16 years older and has no children. My problem is, I have no relationship with Elsa. The only thing we have in common is Bob.
Elsa only calls Bob's cell phone, so she never talks to me. She writes letters addressed only to Bob. I have tried on several occasions to get to know her, but she doesn't listen when I speak and interrupts our conversations to talk with Bob. Bob refuses to discuss my discomfort with Elsa.
Elsa is very judgmental, which makes me uncomfortable. When we visit her, Bob isn't himself. She thinks they are very close, but she doesn't know his real personality. She and her husband constantly invite us to come for long visits, and I just can't do it. Bob sometimes goes by himself but much prefers that I accompany him. I've gone on occasion but become so anxious I get sick. I realize we don't have to be best friends, but how can I stop feeling so unwanted?
Dismissed in Arizona
Dear Arizona: Elsa probably feels as you do you have nothing in common. The difference is, she doesn't seem to care about improving the relationship. But you do. The only way to become friendlier is to spend more time in her company. Tell Elsa you'd like to get to know her better. Talk about things that interest her (ask Bob for ideas). Flatter her by complimenting her style or her home. Try not to be so insulted when she ignores you. It really means she lacks the social skills to hold a polite conversation.
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married over 40 years. We've had some disagreements, which often result in heated discussions. My husband then has difficulty staying calm and will frequently raise his voice and yell.
I have asked him numerous times to go to counseling. He says a counselor's job is to find fault with both sides. He actually yells obscenities when I suggest it. He says we should ask our adult children for their opinions to settle arguments. I think it's a terrible idea to drag the children into this, but when I say so, my husband claims it's because I know the children will take his side. These arguments really upset me. How would you suggest I handle this?
Dear Wife: It is perfectly normal to raise one's voice in the middle of an argument. The question is, has this behavior been the same for 40 years of marriage? If so, it's not likely to change. If, however, it's fairly recent, there could be a medical reason behind it, in which case your husband should see his doctor. Otherwise, the only person who will benefit from counseling is you. Please go on your own and develop some coping mechanisms to deal with his upsetting behavior.
Dear Annie: I can relate to "Facing Reality," who is afraid of death. I am a 22-year-old girl and have the same fears. It got worse when a loved one became terminally ill a few years ago. It used to keep me awake at night.
I found one thing that really helped me: thinking of some great person from history. Anyone can try it. Just think of someone you admire who has since passed on. It could be Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, George Harrison, anyone. If they were able to face death, I figure, I can do it, too.
Death can be scary, but it's not "bad." What awaits on the other side is a mystery, but there is no reason to believe it's negative. She should live each day as another opportunity to experience joy and do good.No Longer Afraid
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate
© Creators Syndicate