Q: My parents both passed away within the past year. My three siblings and I have always been pretty close, but losing our mom and dad has put a lot of stress on the relationships. I hate to say it, but much of the arguing is about money and dividing up their estate. It just adds to the grief of losing them. How do we get past this?
Juli: In the wake of losing both of your parents, it is so sad that you also find yourself in conflict with your siblings. Unfortunately, those who work with wills and estate planning will tell you that you and your siblings are not alone in your experience. Money and the desire to own things that were important to your parents can create tremendous feelings of anger and jealousy. It can resurrect old wounds like, "You were always their favorite," or, "I sacrificed so much to take care of them, so I deserve more."
As you strive for a peaceful resolution to this conflict with your siblings, here are a few things that can help:
First, keep conversations just between you and your siblings. Once in-laws and grandchildren get involved, the dynamics become only more complicated. This is your family, so any disagreement should be handled among the four of you and perhaps a neutral mediator.
Second, make sure that you and your siblings are taking time to grieve. Your sadness and loss can be channeled into irrational anger and conflict if you do not process it.
Finally, honor the memory of your parents. Imagine if they were watching you and your siblings argue over the things they left on this Earth. They'd be heartbroken. More than material wealth, a good parent wants to leave a legacy of love. Honor that legacy by refusing to treat each other unkindly.
Q: I think I'm in love with a man who works in my office. I know many people consider it unprofessional to date a co-worker, and I'm not entirely certain about his feelings for me. I don't want to place him or myself in an awkward position. What are your thoughts?
Jim: As you probably know, many office romances end in disaster. Typically, a couple begins dating, the relationship doesn't work out, and they break up. If there are hard feelings, the work environment can become a nightmare not only for the former couple but also for their co-workers. Many companies have "non-fraternization" policies for this very reason.
On the other hand, not all office romances are doomed, especially when they involve two mature and discerning individuals. They can even lead to wonderful marriages. A great deal depends on the nature of your working relationship.
It's highly inadvisable to date a supervisor or someone who is underneath you in the chain of command. The fallout of a breakup will be a lot less complicated if you're peers at the same job-grade level. Ideally, your co-worker will be located in another department or someplace where you won't have to interact with him every day if the relationship goes sour.
If your co-worker hasn't openly expressed romantic interest, beware of reading too much into the fact that you have nice conversations with him or feel a sense of chemistry. Take your time and get to know him before you allow your emotions to run away with you. Watch him on the job and in his interactions with fellow employees. Ask yourself if he displays the character that you desire in a dating and marriage partner. If his feelings for you are something more than merely cordial, you'll know soon enough.
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