Dear Annie: We often invite my brother-in-law to share dinner with us. He lives alone across the street and seems to enjoy the food when he comes over.
I am writing because he is very opinionated and shuts me down whenever I say something that he disagrees with. Recently, it was when I said that Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs is patient and that the New England Patriots were underdogs before the game, which the Patriots won – barely. But my brother-in-law disputed both of my comments and left no room to have another perspective.
In addition, after he has finished a meal, he often begins talking about food, where he’s going to get it next – Chinese takeout, for instance – or where he gets the best meatballs, etc.
Is it me, or is this recurrent behavior a put-down to me, seeing as I’m a good cook and he seems competitive with me about other matters? I haven’t cut him off as yet because of family ties, but I’m pretty tired of this kind of boorish behavior when he comes over at our invitation to have dinner together.
Thank you for weighing in. – At the End of My Patience
Dear End of Patience: I’m not so sure that his talking about his favorite meatballs or where he likes to get Chinese food is a put-down about your cooking. That is, of course, unless you are serving meatballs or Chinese food that night. No one likes to be around an opinionated person who refuses to listen to another’s perspective, so you might ask your husband to help with this situation – either by talking privately to your brother-in-law or in defending you at dinner when the conversation gets heated.
Dear Annie: My boss is currently in marriage counseling. I found this out directly from him. He goes to regular weekly meetings with his wife. He’s always in an especially bad mood on those days. I think their marriage is in a really bad state. That already makes me sad, but I’ve also met his three kids, and they’re wonderful. I worry about them and about my boss.
Is there anything I could do to help him in this time of need? I know I would want the people around me to be compassionate if I ever told them I’m going through something. I offered my boss some homeopathic stress relief pills, but he brushed me off. What do I do? I don’t want to stand idly by while he suffers. – Bearing the Brunt of Boss’s Breakup
Dear Bearing the Brunt: Though I truly admire your compassion for your boss’s unhappy marriage, I don’t think you should take this one on unless you are planning on leaving your job. The fact that he brushed you off when you offered him your stress relief pills may be an indication that it’s time to sit this one out. Sometimes not doing anything except listening without trying to offer advice is the best thing you can do. If he reaches out to you again, acknowledge how he feels without being patronizing or making the conversation about you.
Lastly, if in fact his marriage is in a bad state, then he has a right to be sad. Also, he is doing something about it by going to marriage counseling. Let’s hope he has a good counselor and in time his sadness and bad moods lessen.
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