DEAR ABBY: I am 37 years old and have one older brother who is 39. When we were growing up, our family was very close, but something happened when my father passed away eight years ago. Within a few years my mother remarried. Soon after, my marriage to an abusive man fell apart.
My brother decided to support my ex-husband and held me responsible for not giving him a "second chance." This hurt me deeply. When my mother recently divorced -- her husband wanted the divorce -- again, my brother took the husband's side. My brother's wife is a born-again Christian and doesn't believe in divorce, no matter what the reason.
My mother is heartbroken and so am I. I always looked up to my brother. I wish I knew it was his wife's influence and not his choice. He promised our father on his deathbed that he would take care of us. Not only has he walked away from us in our time of need, he has sided against us. I have tried talking to him, but it doesn't work. Is there anything I can do? I still love my brother and always will. -- SNIFFLING SIBLING IN TEXAS
DEAR SNIFFLING: If talking to your brother hasn't helped, there is nothing more you can do. I don't know whether his identification with other men is so strong that it colors the way he views you and his mother -- or whether he is unable (or unwilling) to keep his deathbed promise and can't face either of you. However, the reality is that you and she will have to rely on yourselves. Love him if you wish, but don't count on him for anything.
DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, who lives with us, still clings to the cultural values of the old country and expects everybody to conform to them. This sometimes results in confrontation and ill feelings among family members.
My son, who is 16, frequently brings friends home. Most of the time he remembers to introduce them to the family members, but there are times when he thinks he has already introduced them, so he doesn't.
My mother-in-law gets upset when the young people who show up at home do not acknowledge her. She comes from a culture steeped in values such as respect for elders. She feels these young guests should greet her, or smile at her, and that they have to do it first before she will return the greeting.
Although I value such traditions, in my opinion she does not have to wait. She can initiate the introduction. I told her she should just say hello to them and ask them nonchalantly to introduce themselves. She is adamant that she should be greeted first. I explained that we do not know if these young people are shy, or whether they have not been properly taught by their own parents. None of the kids are overtly rude, either to my mother-in-law or me. Who is right in this instance? -- MODERN MOTHER, CERRITOS, CALIF.
DEAR MODERN MOTHER: I don't know where your mother-in-law hails from, but in our culture it is also proper for young people to defer to older people. Make it clear to your son that when he brings friends to the house, he should make a point of greeting his grandmother and asking if she has met them. If she hasn't, he should introduce them. He should also explain to his friends what kind of behavior is expected from him -- and them.
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