Ask Ellie: Well-off couple concerned about siblings' envy of success

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m a successful businesswoman in my 40s, happily married to my equally successful husband, and we have two children.

The problem is my siblings. They haven’t achieved the same level of success in their lives. I feel that there’s a lot of resentment toward us because of this. There are constant little digs at family get-togethers, comments that we spoil our children, that we can afford a big house and go on luxurious holidays.

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There’s even the expectation that we should pay more than our fair share for restaurant outings, and for the retirement home expenses for our parents. Both my husband and I have worked hard to get where we are today. How do we get them to stop giving us a rough time about it? It’s getting so bad that I want to avoid spending any time with them at all.

Self-Made Couple

With such good fortune, even when acquired through hard work, a generous spirit of understanding goes nicely with the territory.

Your siblings envy you. If they had made a fortune and you hadn’t, you might also wish your house was roomier, your vacations more upscale.

Don’t get me wrong, if they had written me with judgmental commentaries on your lifestyle, I wouldn’t respond that it’s acceptable.

I’d say, as I do to you: Siblings can do better than this.

In many families where one couple becomes the most prosperous, they often use their gracious home as a gathering point keeping siblings and your children’s cousins closely connected. Sharing. Some affluent people regularly open their homes to Thanksgiving celebrations, milestone-birthday parties within a circle of close relatives. Embracing.

I agree that its off-putting to have family members accuse you of spoiling your children… but perhaps, with an inability to indulge their own kids on special occasions, you can afford, realistically speaking, to let it pass.

From what you’ve written, this divide between you and your siblings has just been allowed to grow — adding to mutual resentment.

Instead, invite them over (socially distanced, preferably outside, or online if necessary, to be safer during the pandemic). Reach out with goodwill and rise above any comments you’d have formerly bristled at.

Show interest in their lives and that of their children. Focus on any positives that are mentioned. Remember this: Envy is born from someone’s personal frustration/discontent with themselves. It’s more about them, than you. All the more reason you can afford to be understanding.

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 37, who always dated men from my same culture and background. I’d been raised to believe that’s how you eventually found your life partner.

It proved wrong in the living of it. Married at 29, I divorced at 33. My ex-husband was self-centred, cheap, controlling, and “always right.” But I was miserable.

Two years later, I met a man from a very different culture and religion. But our backgrounds growing up weren’t that different when you overlooked variances in some customs. Luckily, we both found delight in learning about those small differences and fell in love. We plan to marry later this year.

Second Time Happy?

Unions combining different cultures usually thrive when each partner purposefully learns more about the other. And with both exploring ways to combine differences into a relationship-sustaining mosaic of interests and habits.

You two have already started on that path. Second time wiser and better!

Ellie’s tip of the day

Sibling rivalry’s common in youngsters. But successful grownups should do better by being generous of spirit.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca. Follow @ellieadvice.

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