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Dear Margo

Husband’s relationship with sister seems odd

July 13, 2010

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Q. My husband of 16 years and I are having a problem. Or maybe I am the one with the problem. He has two older brothers and a younger sister. His sister is visiting from Puerto Rico and has been staying with us for the past two weeks. I’ve noticed that he pays extra attention to her and none to me. He follows her upstairs and waits for her to finish showering and dressing and doesn’t come down until she does. When she arrives home after visiting with friends, his face lights up and he is so interested to hear about her night out. He sits very close to her on the sofa and at the dinner table. And he is always touching her, rubbing her back and her feet and washing her laundry — making sure not to damage her delicate items (panties, nighties, etc.).

I’m feeling very insecure about his behavior. He doesn’t do those things for me and shows no affection toward me unless it’s sexual, and even then I’m the one to initiate it. I would like to know whether I’m being hypersensitive, or is his behavior inappropriate? Should I tell him how I’ve been feeling?

SO JEALOUS

A. This is his sister? The behavior sounds over-solicitous, to say the least. What is going on makes him sound like a cross between a gay butler (who is a masseur on the side) and a brother with incestuous feelings. What is key to know is whether he has always talked about his younger sister in an older brother, doting manner, and if previous visits have played out this way. I would by all means bring to his attention that the difference in the way he treats his sister as compared to his wife is causing you to have second thoughts about the raison d’etre of your marriage. Good luck with this one. It sounds pretty off to me.

Q. I went to school about three hours from my parents, and my boyfriend went to the same school — about five hours from his parents. We chose this school because it gave us opportunities that we would not have had staying close to home. We both graduated two years ago and worked hard for great jobs with fantastic companies that allowed us to stay in the same town as our college.

The problem is that each family wants us to visit more than we already do. We’re both working to get ahead in our careers, while maintaining good relationships with our friends in town. We visit both families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, while also visiting each family four more times a year. Comparably, our parents rarely come to visit; the last time we entertained one of our families was more than a year ago.

How can we impress upon our parents that we’re doing the best we can, while explaining that trips home use up valuable vacation time, take us away from routine maintenance around the home we share, and are generally a cost we can’t afford while saving for a wedding and a starter home? The guilt is eating me up.

TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE BUT OURSELVES

A. Lose the guilt, honey. From this outsider’s point of view, you are doing right by both sets of parents, and they need to get with the program that you two are grown-ups who are trying to build a life and careers. Tell them you’d love to see them more in your town, but your combined visits to both families are all that you can manage. If they continue to rag on you, do the emotional version of la la la la la la la.

All letters must be sent via e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com.