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Carolyn Hax: Is working from home turning this marriage into a house of cards?



There He Is Again: I know it’s not funny, but your letter is really funny.

Also funny: Hunter S. Thompson, my beacon of last resort, whose battle cry I cite often. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Find ways to shake things up without rattling foundations. Relax old rules, create bizarre new ones, change menus, make art, upend routines — together or separately. Give each other complete mornings/afternoons/days off caregiving duty, alternating fairly. Brainstorm new remote-work sites awayyyy from each other. Adopt a cause, dog, cat, highway. He’s a fixture, so redecorate around him.

If your forced-cheer fuel gauge is at 0, then that’s okay, too. Temporary numbness, with a splash of healthy denial and distraction, can help when excessive awareness is the problem.

Just be transparent that he hasn’t done anything wrong: “I’m sorry I’m not myself lately, I’m just over-everythinged and need time in my shell.”

Also mind your mental health to ensure only temporary numbness, knowing this torturous limbo itself is temporary. Catch up with friends — seek novelty there, going deep into your address book — or adopt a yoga/meditation practice, or other exercise, or try therapy, or ___. Deliberately ground yourself to keep from drifting away. You might even conjure something you’re excited to tell him about.

Dear Carolyn: Over 20 years ago, when my sister had small kids and was working part-time, she told my parents she was available to help them sell their house and move to a more suitable home. My mom and I determined this move was premature. My sister clearly stated that was fine, but her future looked much busier.

Now my parents definitely need to move. My sister is an empty-nester and could help. Instead, my brother-in-law is taking an overseas placement for two years (on hold now). I have asked my sister to delay her move six months or so to get my parents moved and their house cleaned out and sold. Then she can join her husband.

My mother is on board with this plan. But my sister is a firm no. She definitely has time. Her work can be done from anywhere, so it can be done at Mom’s. She is sticking with her previous statement. While technically correct, she is through the busy phase and once again available.

I have small kids and an executive job, and absolutely do not have time to take this on. My sister needs to step up here, and I am so frustrated that she will not. Typically she will do what we need but not this time. Her husband could easily make do without her.

So this is just about her wanting to be with him overseas, not needing to. Whereas my parents need her. How do I persuade my sister to do the right thing?

Do Not Have Time: You and your mom have another extensive session to plan out your sister’s life for her better than she can, then try forcing it on her again.

Translation: Stop it. Now.

Your sister gave her answer, which, no matter how upsetting, was hers to give.

Obviously it’s a huge ask for you to “take this on” yourself. But, for your sister to live apart from her husband for six months! while she works full-time from the home she’s packing up and selling? is a huge ask, too.

So stop being so cavalier about what “right thing” someone else is “available” to “definitely” “easily” do for you.

And stop asking as if it’s her responsibility to make sacrifices based on your math. Again, so cavalier.

And stop asking as if her past offer has anything to do with present circumstances.

Instead, please see this: After her “no,” every reason you conjure that she “needs to step up” serves zero purpose except to stoke your anger at her.

A rift between their children might be the one thing more stressful for your parents than moving.

So, again — stop. Stop pushing Plan A as if your sister’s the only option you’ve got, because you don’t have it.

Also stop treating Plan B — doing it yourself — as if that’s your only alternative, since it’s not a realistic one.

Instead, have a full-family conference of equals — not just you and Mom vs. sister — toward Plan C, where you hire out everything but a short, agreed-upon list of the most intimate, in-person tasks. Holding the family together is more important than the way you break down the house.

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