Ask Amy: Sister gives new meaning to “cruise control”
Dear Amy: Two years ago (prior to the pandemic), my husband and I went on a cruise with longtime friends. They then asked us to join them again.
The date is approaching, and we are having a huge problem letting my sister know we are going. I know this is a first-world problem, but my sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization.
My husband has been a saint in making her a part of all our vacations, dinners out, etc., with no complaint. We have been married for 52 years and my sister has been widowed for 20 years.
She is always complaining of how she is bored and feels no one does anything to provide her with “things to do,” or asking her to be part of vacations, dinner parties, etc.
We are at a loss on how to tell her we are leaving without her on this trip.
She is wealthy, we are not, but she has no one to go with her on adventures.
Past experiences when this has happened have been incredibly unpleasant. She becomes very depressed and will go for weeks without speaking to us.
It makes us feel guilty for going without her, but we also believe we are entitled to have our own life. There are many past familial issues with my mother who was mentally ill, leading to feelings of abandonment and guilt.
Is there any way we can tell her we are leaving for nine days without her feeling left out and abandoned?
We have considered offering to go with her on a trip of her choosing at Christmas, but we don’t know how to approach the situation.
It is causing me (and my husband) much anxiety.
I actually vomit due to anxiety over this.
What can we do?
Dear Guilty: Your sister is something of an emotional vampire, and your generosity toward her over the last 20 years has enabled her to control you to the extent that you and your husband have already determined that you won’t be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation without her.
That’s how powerful and successful her training has been!
If you had established some reasonable boundaries years ago, your sister might have her own life by now.
There are many wonderful opportunities for guided travel available to solo travelers with the means and motivation.
If you don’t have the backbone to tolerate your sister’s tantrum, then you should just give in, stay home, and devote yourselves to her needs.
However, you might liberate yourselves from this control if you prepare yourselves for her reaction and simply choose not to be triggered by it this time.
You say, “We’re leaving for a cruise at the end of the month and will be gone for nine days. We’re pretty excited and looking forward to it, and we’ll see you when we return.”
Do not offer her alternate vacations in order to appease her. That is just reinforcing behavior which you are seeking to change.
Dear Amy: My husband and I always have this disagreement whenever we go out for a meal.
Do you base your tip on the total amount (like I do) or before the tax (like my husband)? Please settle this for me!
— Big tipper in NJ
Dear Tipper: Strictly speaking, if you tip on the total (including tax), then part of your tip is actually based on the tax itself – not on services rendered.
However, I base my tip on the total, and then add some.
I do this because I once waited tables.
Also, because I can.
The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a table of minimum wages for tipped employees (which vary by state). Ask your husband to take a look at this chart (search on DOL.gov) and ask if shaving a few pennies off of a tip from these truly minimal hourly minimums is really worth it to him.
Dear Amy: I was disappointed by your response to “Tired.” This letter was written by a mom who didn’t like it when her adult children kept bouncing back home for long or short stays.
You should have suggested that she give them jobs to do! At the very least, each visiting child should pay for/prepare one meal for the family.
— Never an Empty Nest
Dear Never: I did suggest that “Tired” should set up some boundaries in terms of cooking and cleaning, but yes – giving them specific jobs would be better.
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