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Limit time with hopeless relative to minimum

Kathy Mitchell Marcy Sugar Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: I have been married for five years to a wonderful man. I knew when we married that his brother, “Paul,” would be difficult – he is overbearing, rude, self-centered and a bully – but I thought I could deal with the challenge.

My husband’s sister, “Rita,” recently was diagnosed with cancer. Rita, her husband and their young daughter have been staying with us during her chemo so we can help take care of her and her family. The last two treatments, my mother-in-law came to visit in order to help out. During both visits, Paul asked his mother to watch his two kids, which left us scrambling to take care of a very sick cancer patient, get her to doctor visits, and supervise her small child and mine, plus Paul’s kids.

I asked Paul to please wait until Rita’s treatment is over before asking us to baby-sit. His response? He said Rita is a baby and a whiner about her cancer and that she has the whole family wrapped around her finger. He then swore at me on the phone, so I hung up on him.

Over the years, my husband and I have baby-sat for Paul’s kids (whom I love dearly), made improvements on his house and let him spend countless hours relaxing at our place while I cooked him meals. We also have given him large amounts of cash on numerous occasions because he is so irresponsible with money.

I was both stunned and saddened by Paul’s selfishness and complete lack of compassion for his own sister. I would never ask my husband to choose between me and his brother, but I find Paul completely reprehensible, and I don’t want my child around him. How can I deal with this thorn in my side? He is family. Am I stuck with him? – At the End of My Rope

Dear Rope: Yes, you’re stuck with him, but you don’t have to let him take advantage of you. Limit your time with Paul to those family occasions when you must be around him. If your husband chooses to have a closer relationship with his brother, don’t criticize, but let him do it on his own time.

Dear Annie: I am a 28-year-old female and am close friends with “Amanda.” Frequently, when Amanda and I are at a restaurant or social event, she makes comments about the portion size on my plate versus the amount on hers. Recently, at a restaurant with two other friends, I took one last bite off my plate, and Amanda yelled across the table, “Are you still eating?”

Annie, both Amanda and I are at healthy weights, so I am at a loss to explain her behavior. Am I wrong to think she’s rude? – Frustrated in South Carolina

Dear S.C.: Of course she’s rude. She does it because it makes her feel superior, and she needs to feel that way because underneath it all, she is pathetically insecure. Either ignore her or tell her to knock it off.

Dear Annie: I work the third shift for a major company and am worried about a co-worker. “Cora” is a very nice lady, but she falls asleep in mid-conversation. She also conks out while taking calls, sitting down, standing up, etc. I seem to be the closest one to her and try to keep her awake, but it’s not easy. We also are worried because she drives. Our office is like a big family, so please tell us how to help her. Should we suggest that she see a doctor? – Midwest Telemarketer

Dear Midwest: Yes. It sounds as if Cora suffers from narcolepsy, but the good news is, there is treatment available. Cora should call the nearest sleep disorder clinic, or contact the National Sleep Foundation ( 1522 K St., NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20005, for a referral.

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