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by Abigail Van Buren

Insecure Brother-In-Law Must Be Center Of Attention

DEAR ABBY: We live near my wife's sister "Bree" and her husband, "Joe." We socialize often at one of our homes or at a restaurant. They have recently become good friends with another couple, the "Russells," who are delightful.

Bree and Joe sometimes invite us over when the Russells are there. The problem is, when I try to carry on a conversation with Mr. Russell, Joe gets bent out of shape. He interrupts and changes the subject or says something to make me look bad. If that doesn't stop the discussion, Joe walks off in a huff. I think he's acting like an immature middle-schooler. (It also triggers memories I have of being bullied and excluded as a child.)

I'd like to avoid these three-couple get-togethers, but I don't know how many times I can do it without raising questions. An alternative would be to avoid the Russells and converse only with other guests who may be present. Either option, or mentioning it, risks making me look like the jealous 12-year-old instead of Joe. Any ideas? -- ODD MAN OUT IN KANSAS

DEAR ODD MAN OUT: It appears that your brother-in-law is insecure, or he wouldn't behave the way he is. How sad -- for him.

Start limiting the time you spend as a threesome. Ask your wife to find out in advance if the Russells will be visiting when you are. If Bree asks her why, your wife should tell her that Joe seems upset when you try to carry on a conversation with the husband and you don't want to make him uncomfortable. Perhaps if she tells her husband to knock it off and grow up, he will. However, if the problem continues, explain to the Russells that as much as you enjoy their company, you'll be seeing them less often, and why.

It isn't necessary to mention to any of them the grief you experienced in middle school because, frankly, it is none of their business. If it's any comfort to you, it appears Joe had insecurities back then, too, but he never outgrew them.

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