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Estrangement doubles down on divorce

Q. My wife’s nephew “Chris” is going through a divorce. Chris and his wife, “Jan,” have two children.

Jan has always had a positive relationship with our family. The divorce has been a cordial parting of ways, but my wife’s family now wishes to ghost Jan.

I feel bad ghosting Jan, but I risk alienating my wife and her family by being cordial. I feel like calling her to express my sadness that I can’t talk to her, and that I hope she understands, but even that would seem risky.

I don’t think being estranged for no good reason is healthy, and I feel bad about it.


Common sense tells me to stay out of it, but can you say something that will make me feel not so bad about it?


A. Unfortunately, I can’t help you to feel better about your wife’s clan’s choice to deliberately initiate an estrangement.

If they succeed, “Chris”’s children will be forced to continually split their time and attention, not only between their two parents, but now extending into other generations. For instance, they will learn that they won’t be able to tell one set of grandparents about experiences with the other set. They will train themselves never to mention their mother in front of their father’s family. And thus the emotional editing begins.

Furthermore, if your wife’s family would punish you for simply being kind and cordial to “Jan,” this reflects extremely poorly on all of them.

”Circling the wagons” following a breakup is expected. Families will show loyalty, and in my opinion, this is mainly demonstrating supportive behavior during a challenging time.

I certainly hope that Chris will actively discourage this “ghosting,” however. Nor should you play along.

No, you should not contact Jan to tell her you’re sorry you won’t be able to speak to her. This would only insert you into their drama.


Yes, you could contact her to say that you’re sorry that this breakup is happening, that you always enjoyed her presence in the family, and that you hope she and the children do well through the process.

If your wife and her family confront you about this, you can simply remind them that you are an adult and that they are not in charge of you.

Q. My friend “J” celebrated her birthday five months ago. She invited me, her husband, “M,” and another friend out to a karaoke bar for dinner and drinks.

M told us that he was paying for everything as a gift to J. When the bill arrived, it was more than he was expecting, and he told us he’d send us a Venmo request for our share the next morning. J pushed back, saying that it was his gift to her and he couldn’t back out.

I didn’t hear anything more about it until this week, when I got a Venmo request for $85. I texted M and asked what the request was for, and he said that he found a sticky note saying everyone owed him that much for the party. He apologized for not following up earlier, but he’d like me to pay him back as soon as possible. He also said he didn’t have the original receipt.

I feel like it’s extremely tacky of him to ask for repayment now. Plus, if I do, I’ll have about 17 cents until my next paycheck.


The petty side of me wants to make him wait five more months to get his money, but frankly after this long I don’t feel like I should have to pay him back at all.

What’s your take?


A. According to PayPal, which owns Venmo, the “Venmo lifecycle = 48 hours.” They suggest that users should send a request within 24 hours, and the request should be honored within the next 24 hours.

I think you should contact “M” and tell him that while you had funds five months ago, you don’t now, but over the next few months you’ll do your best. You could Venmo him $1.76 a week until you feel like the gag has run its course.

Q. Your response to “Sick at Heart Mom” made me sick.

A mother claimed her adult son assaulted his sister, and you immediately believed it because you automatically believe women instead of men.


A. The police interviewed the son and chose to advance the case to be prosecuted. The son tacitly admitted the assault.

In this case, my alleged bias might be confirmed.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.