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by Abigail Van Buren

Amateur Shrink's Analysis Provokes a Family Feud

DEAR ABBY: My brother's wife, "Sandy," does not have a degree in psychology or medicine, yet freely assigns diagnoses to family members after reading about their "conditions" in magazines.

At a family picnic last Sunday, Sandy declared that I am bipolar and my mother is entering the second stage of Alzheimer's! I was appalled at her lack of sensitivity on this and other issues, so I called her Monday morning to initiate an honest discussion of her behavior.

Less than a minute into our conversation, Sandy angrily told me to "get a life" and slammed the phone in my ear. She immediately called my mother and told her how insulted she was that I would use the word "behavior" with her. She said it made her feel like a 6-year-old.

After she calmed down and phoned me back, Sandy repeated her outrage at my using the word "behavior." When I asked her what word I should have used instead, she said "efforts."

What do you make of her so-called "efforts," Abby? I still think she was out of line. My sister-in-law may be many things, but she's no doctor! -- FED UP IN PRINCETON, N.J.

DEAR FED UP: Right. There is a saying, "The best defense is a good offense." Your sister-in-law's behavior was an example of that.

DEAR ABBY: I have a complaint about my husband "Pete's" generosity to others.

Pete is a golf professional and is asked almost weekly by family and friends to get them golf equipment at cost. It takes up a big chunk of his time to order and ship out the clubs, shoes, etc. -- not to mention trying to get these folks to pay for their orders.

Do these Sunday golfers ever do anything nice for Pete? No! He won't turn down their requests because he can't stand the thought of someone not thinking he's a good guy. I say this needs to stop.

Please help me convince my husband that these freeloaders are just that. -- FRUSTRATED WIFE IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR WIFE: The man you married is either a good Samaritan or a severely addicted people pleaser. I don't blame you for being tee'd. However, until he's ready to see that friendship is a two-way street, he won't change -- nor is he going to accept unsolicited advice from me.

DEAR ABBY: My wife's family consisted of eight sisters and four brothers. She is the youngest sister, and the difference in age between her and her older sister is 18 years. All of the siblings married and had many children. My wife attended all their showers; we subsequently went to the weddings and baby showers.

Now the third generation is starting to become engaged and we are again receiving invitations. We don't have the energy or money to attend these weddings, but don't know how to graciously decline the invitations. (There are more on the horizon.) Both of us are over 80 years old and on a fixed income. How should we respond? -- OLD FOLK IN NEW YORK

DEAR OLD FOLK: Send a lovely card and good wishes to the happy couples. If you are questioned about your absence, be honest; say that you do not want to offend any of your siblings by playing favorites and attending only a few of the celebrations -- and attending them all would create a hardship.

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