My controlling sister-in-law makes holidays a living hell

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DEAR ABBY: I have a sister-in-law, “Helen,” who has appointed herself as the final word on all family events. No other relative has any input into when, where, what, etc., regarding any family celebration. If it’s not her way, it’s the highway. 

The biggest problem with Helen is she schedules everything on the date that fits her calendar without regard for anyone else’s. An example: We once celebrated Christmas in February because that worked best for her. Another time, my wife and I scheduled a complicated vacation around my brother’s birthday so we could be there to celebrate with him. Helen moved his birthday party right into the middle of our prepaid vacation. 

More examples: Thanksgiving is celebrated in early December,  and other significant dates fall whenever she decides and are subject to change at the last moment at her whim. Complying with Helen’s one-sided demands makes planning for everyone else a nightmare. 

The control doesn’t end there. It also includes the venue, menu and guest list. She even puts place cards on the table designating the seating arrangements. As with everything else, these are NOT negotiable. If not complied with, the “offender” is subjected to a minimum of six months of silent treatment and ghosting. How does one deal with this? — CONTROLLED IN FLORIDA

DEAR CONTROLLED: One deals with this by discussing it with other family members to see if they feel the same as you do and are willing to face the consequences of Helen’s extended silences, which, from my perspective, might be a relief. (Then pray she doesn’t plan your funeral.)

DEAR ABBY: I’m a nurse who still works full time. Most of my peers are retired. Several of them I’ve started to avoid at all costs. Each time I talk to them, all they want to talk about are their aches and pains, how sick they are and how mad they are at their kids, siblings or spouse). They aren’t just annoyed. They’re furious about any real or perceived slight. 

I have thought about introducing them all to each other so they could have a group pity party. I have suggested consulting their doctors or trying psychotherapy. I’m just tired of it. I can’t stand the negativity or their hypochondria. I feel guilty, but I now dread any phone call, text or invitation to get together. Please help. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I’m worn out. — POSITIVE PERSON IN THE SOUTH

DEAR POSITIVE PERSON: There comes a time, usually around the age of 50, when some folks begin pruning their friend list. Bluntly put, this means weeding out sources of constant negativity. Because your former peers drag you down with their family dysfunction and “organ recitals,” when they try to make contact, remind them that while they are retired and have free time, you still work and are strapped for it — which is why you can’t be involved as often as they want you to be. Being unavailable isn’t rude. Sometimes, it’s self-defense.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at \ or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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