Q. I have a much older sister who has been a heavy drinker for probably 50 years. The entire family knows this, but because of her intimidating personality, no one has ever dared to address it — including her grown children or husband.
My four sisters (and husbands) had a family reunion several months ago, and the alcoholic sister was completely out of control, not only drinking every day, but drinking all day, every day. She was intolerable to be around — mean, negative, and sarcastic.
After everyone returned home, my eldest sister, who was hosting the reunion, decided to address the situation with an e-mail stating her concerns to alcoholic sister and copied all the siblings on the e-mail. Alcoholic sister sent back a vicious e-mail to everyone and has not spoken to any of us since. She is a master grudge-holder, and no one expects to ever hear from her again — she is in her late 70s and has other health problems.
After being confronted, she canceled attending the next family reunion, which is to take place this summer. She was clearly stunned to be called an alcoholic and is so far in denial that nothing anyone says is going to change her habits.
I’m wondering whether I should reach out to her. We have had a good relationship. The other sisters have tried to connect with her, and their efforts have been ignored. Your thoughts?
A. Your sister’s reaction to this familial concern does not mean that she is in denial about her drinking. Her anger and insubordination should tell all of you that she is making a choice to cut you off rather than face the truth about herself. This doesn’t mean she does not know the truth. It means she does know the truth.
If you have always enjoyed your distant contact with her, then you should attempt to continue this contact in the most loving and compassionate way you can. The boundary you must create has to do with your unwavering intolerance of being abused by her. Most likely, she will choose to ignore you. Then you must turn your attention to dealing with your own sadness over the loss of this relationship, balanced by gratitude for being part of the family that remains together.
Q. I am getting married in October. A woman I’ve known for a long time but who probably wouldn’t have been invited to the wedding independently started dating my groom’s best friend.
While they were dating, she got invited to my bachelorette party.
Recently she broke up with him and e-mailed one of the bridesmaids, asking for details for the bachelorette party. She will no longer be invited to the wedding — so how do I express that she shouldn’t come to the party?
A. It is rude to issue an invitation and then yank it back. But it is your wedding, and if this invitation was contingent on this person’s relationship with your fiance’s friend, then you have to tell her, plainly, that she will not be included in your wedding celebrations.
You should contact her personally and say, “You were included in our wedding because of your relationship with the groom’s best friend, but now that you are no longer in this relationship, we are moving on with our wedding without you. I’m sorry about this, but it’s the way it is.”