Relatives refuse to be part of the family

How do you deal with people who simply delete their family from their lives?

Dear Annie: How do you deal with people who simply delete their family from their lives?

There was no argument or complicated situation. All of a sudden, they are not returning phone calls or emails.

My sister has done this for the second time, and now my husband’s nephew has cut everyone off. “Dennis” hasn’t spoken to the family for 18 months. I haven’t spoken to my sister for a year.

We’ve made many attempts to get in touch, but my sister won’t respond, and our nephew specifically told us to stay away from his home and work. In both cases, I suspect the catalyst was their own marital problems.

In the past year, there have been some serious health problems with Dennis’ family.

When his mother and grandmother were both in the hospital, he was called to see if he could help out with Grandpa, who was home alone and very feeble. He refused.

Dennis and his family are missed so much. My sister lives in her self-imposed isolation. She has not come home or visited her mother in four years.

I have given up trying to reach her. It hurts too much waiting to see if she will respond and dealing with the rejection when she does not.

What are their children told when grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are suddenly gone from their lives? I find it hard to understand how a person could go about their lives with no thought for those who love and miss them. Is it selfishness? Any advice? — Deleted in Ohio

Dear Ohio: There are myriad reasons for such behaviour. Your nephew’s wife may have demanded no contact.

Your sister’s childhood experiences may trouble her in ways you don’t understand. They may find family obligations too stressful. They may suffer from mental illness.

We agree that cutting off loved ones without explanation is not the best option, but you cannot make them respond differently. Send a holiday card without any expectations, and perhaps one day they will find their way back home.

Dear Annie: When the dental hygienist cleans my teeth, she asks about my flossing and brushing habits. I do both regularly, but she still chastises and lectures me about the importance of my daily habits.

Then she tries to get me to buy the electric toothbrush the office sells. My brother, who uses the same dentist, was told they’d stop treating his family if he didn’t buy the toothbrush.

Between the high-pressure sales pitch and the lecture, I dread my next checkup. His office is convenient and offers late hours, so I’d rather not change dentists. How do I stop this without getting a “white knuckle” cleaning in retaliation? — M.

Dear M.: This is appalling. You should inform your dentist of your objections to this aggressive hard-sell and make it clear that you will find another dentist if you aren’t treated with more respect. If things don’t improve, we hope you will find a more ethical practitioner, regardless of the convenience. (Your brother may also want to contact your state or local dental association to file a complaint.)

Dear Annie: I could have written the letter from “The Thrill is Gone” word for word. He said his wife of 35 years is wonderful but refuses all attempts at intimacy.

My wife got everything she wanted in life from me — children, financial security and a solid marriage. When I finally reached my limit on a sexless marriage, she had the temerity to demand counselling.

I divorced her, and for the past 20 years, she has been living with her lesbian lover with whom she had an ongoing affair for the last five years of our 21-year marriage.

Tell “Thrill” to look a little deeper. — Older but Wiser

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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