DEAR LONELYHEARTS: My wife of 18 years has never liked my sister, who is 40 and finally moving out of my parents' house. For the better part of 20 years, she never had a good enough job to move out on her own. She never took drugs, never drank, has never been out all night with a guy. Mind you, she's never had a boyfriend. My parents are Portuguese and my mother helped her with her laundry and cooked her dinner -- no problem in our culture. Things have changed career-wise for my sister and last month she bought a condo. Up until then, my wife called her a "leech" and "good-for-nothing" and said the reason my sister couldn't have a boyfriend is she is "ugly" and "sponging off my parents." If my sister ever needed some help from me, my wife forbade it. Now my wife is mad and not talking to me because I picked my sister up on the way to the funeral home for the service of a person we both knew, instead of making her take the bus. I went against my wife's wishes. I think my wife is disrespectful, especially because it was a funeral. -- Frustrated Husband
Dear Frustrated: Your wife is not only disrespectful to your sister; she's walking all over you and disrespecting your culture. Give your silent wife one last lesson on the cultural situation surrounding adult kids which shouldn't be bothering her, since it doesn't bother your parents. It's probably just an excuse to express hostility towards your family and isolate you from them. In fact, when you give this little lecture to Silent Woman, tell her (with a straight face) to be quiet to the end and hear you out. She'll start talking in a hurry when forbidden to talk. Then you ask her once, with no begging, to go to marriage counselling with you to straighten out some important problems in your marriage. Tell her you are going with or without her, and actually start going on your own. You will get coaching on how to handle your problems with her -- which may or may not work, depending on your wife's desire to keep the marriage. You may just want go to the counsellor to figure out how long you want to stay with this woman -- until the children graduate, perhaps? Start right now to show your love and caring to all members of your family as much as you want. You have let your wife get away with way too much bossing for too many years. When she insulted your sister, calling her names, there should have been major trouble. It's time to be a new man, who is not anyone's doormat. Write back and tell me why you have taken so much nonsense.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: In response to Don't Know What To Do -- who said her two best friends told her they couldn't put up with her anymore -- I went through that 10 years ago. There were four of us who were all best friends with each other. Fresh out of high school, I chose to take a year off school before going to university, one moved to Nova Scotia, and two went straight to university. They started cutting me out, to the point of lying. I confronted them and it didn't go well. After spats back and forth, they wanted nothing to do with me. For years I had that weight hanging over my shoulders. I made amends with one of the two eight years later. I decided we were young, naive and still finding our true selves way back when. My advice to you? At some point, most of us grow up and figure out the mistakes we made in friendships, while others will hold grudges for the rest of their lives. If it was meant to be that you guys were to be friends, you will find your way back to each other. Just let things settle for a while. -- Weight Off Shoulders, Winnipeg
Dear Weight Off: Young guys drift off from the pack with little problem and sometimes drift back later. Young women have "breakups" within very small groups. The myth that gets everybody in trouble is that friends made in high school, camp, college or different jobs will last forever. You might spend a lot of time together at a certain age or stage but lives change, and people grow at different rates. We need to accept that friendships fade in and fade out, according to circumstances. One or two friends may become lifetime close friends, but not very many.