Dear Annie: A few years ago, my husband and I moved across the country to help with his aging parents. Everyone welcomed me, with the exception of one niece who has gone out of her way to let me know that I am not part of this family.
When this niece visited us as a teenager, she treated me the same way, but I attributed it to her being young. I even sent her money while she was in college and gifts for her birthday and Christmas. I thought she would outgrow her aversion to me, but she hasn’t. It may be due to the fact that I am reserved, quiet and not outwardly emotional. Or it could be because I am from a different culture.
Some time ago, this niece said something quite hurtful to me in front of my husband, and he took her to task for it, even though I asked him not to. When the girl denied any wrongdoing, her mother believed her, and this has created a rift between my husband and his sister. We are now at the point where she no longer invites us to family functions.
I’ve explained to my husband that this is about his niece’s problem with me and doesn’t mean his sister doesn’t love him. But that hasn’t helped him come to terms with the estrangement. His father is dying, and my husband thinks we should move away when his parents are gone.
I worry that his niece’s prejudice will keep him from ever having a relationship with his sister. I’ve tried to stay out of it and let the family work through these issues themselves, but now I feel I need to talk to them about what they are doing to my husband. Any suggestions? – Washington
Dear Washington: How sad that this spoiled brat of a niece is destroying her family, and her parents allow it. Your motives are good, but it would be best if your husband talked directly to his sister. He should say that he is unhappy that there is an estrangement and ask how to make it better. We hope his sister cares enough to work on it.