Ask Ellie: Rift throws wrench into family gatherings

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m a woman who, for many years, has hosted potluck dinners and movie nights for my relatives, including my siblings, cousins and their spouses. Some of their adult children also attend sporadically.

I work from home, as do a few others, while the rest are working part-time or retired. Everyone seemed delighted with these get-togethers,

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But two months ago, I learned that one sister’s husband has been behaving negatively toward my brother.

His wife called me to say that they’re no longer interested in these gatherings.

I’m very upset about this since, before these gatherings, my family wasn’t keeping in touch much. And my own married children live too far away to see more than twice a year.

I don’t want to make the situation worse by confronting this brother-in-law (he’s worldlier than some other family members so a bit aloof).

But I understand that my brother isn’t happy with the periodic acid comments sent his way.

I love all my close relatives and see them as interestingly different but equally valuable in our family.

How can I heal this rift and get us all back together?

Worried Family Organizer

Lucky family to have you at its centre!

Your efforts to keep everyone in touch and present at regular gatherings are admirable and a stretch of optimism beyond most extended families’ congeniality.

Do not focus too much on this breach, nor make it an issue everyone starts talking about and taking sides.

If your brother and sister-in-law miss the next meeting, let it pass with an excuse.

Meanwhile, stay in touch, invite them to meet you for a lunch/coffee together another time.

They may just need a break from what they see as a sometimes-annoying situation.

Also, in the family in which you grew up, the sibling relationship between your sister and this brother may have a history that’s led to greater sensitivity in reaction to this brother-in-law’s comments.

Perhaps when your brother and sister-in-law don’t show at your next dinner, you could mention that you miss them.

Others present might then take up the call that everyone should make the effort because the get-together makes your family very special.

That might even cause your brother-in-law to recognize that his tart comments are out of place within this remarkable group.


Readers’ commentary: “As a highly concerned parent and educator, I believe that much more needs to be said about teenagers and youth who feel isolated socially:

“The brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for our higher-order skills, such as analytical thinking, self-regulatory behaviour, judgment, memory, language, and problem-solving.

“Social communication and mental health require these thinking skills.

“However, research shows that frontal-lobe development is negatively affected by over-use of technology.

“And over-use can be defined as greater that 30 minutes per day.

“Also, if parents are concerned about the development of their children’s mental health and social communication, they should re-think the amount of screen time that they permit themselves and their children.

“Children of all ages need to be interacting with their environment, their peers, and their families.

“They also need to be engaging in physical activity and in concrete problem-solving activities and games.

“Parents should turn off the technology (yes, they’re in charge with teenagers/young adults), and take time to notice the world around the family.

“They should spend valuable time enriching their children’s lives with shared observations of the real world.

“We’ve allowed technology to negatively influence more than one generation.”

Ellie: Readers’ reactions and comments, please.

Feedback regarding the column about seeing “red flags” on a dating site (Jan. 3):

Reader: “I’ve spent quite a bit of time on dating sites. I agree with you that the texting between the two who met online has too much drama.

“The woman who wrote you definitely needs to walk away from this guy whom she doesn’t believe.

“From what I read, I believe the dude is still married. He’s just looking for a one-night stand in the alley (his admitted sexual fantasy).

“There are tons of married guys on dating sites. They’ll tell lie after lie and dodge to avoid your questions.”

Ellie: It was obvious that the man went on the dating site not expecting to have to reveal his personal life’s details.

Meanwhile, the woman looking for someone to date wasn’t content with slick answers — she rightly asked more questions and recognized when his story changed. She ended the “drama.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Avoid involvement in family members’ rifts, stay connected and they might settle on their own.

Send relationship questions to

Follow @ellieadvice.

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