Family can be your support system one minute and drive you insane the next. As an etiquette professional, answering questions from all over the world, I’ve found that relationship and family issues outweigh all other concerns. It seems that no family question is simple and each is unique. What follows are three of my most favorite questions along with my answers.
Rebecca, I was recently responsible for planning a family trip for my siblings and their families. We all agreed on renting a condo, the dates, and the destination. It was my job to put it all together, including putting down a sizable deposit to hold the date.
One sibling paid me promptly, but one I had to prod multiple times for his share. When it came time to choose rooms, the one sibling who paid promptly suggested I take the master since I did all the work. I, in turn, thought it was only fair for he and his wife choose next since he paid without prodding. The remaining sibling is now balking that he wasn’t allowed to choose a room and is “stuck with leftovers.”
I don’t want any hard feelings going forward, especially since we will be sharing a home soon. What do you think I should have done and should do now?
Actually, the best method would have been to discuss all the possibilities before renting the condo. You could have discussed logistics of bedroom placement with your family once you found out where the bedrooms were. If that wasn’t possible, then a game of chance — like drawing straws — would have been fair.
However, even though it only seems fair that you should get the master since you did all the work, that option should have been voiced upfront. Additionally, if bedroom choices were to be made on the basis of who paid most promptly, that should have been mentioned as well.
At this point, it may be best to discuss all of this openly with your balking sibling so there are no more hard feelings.
My sister invites me over to her home often, which is great since I love visiting her and my little niece. The issue is that her home is uncomfortably filthy.
All the furniture is old, broken and covered with dog hair; the sink is full of dirty dishes and there’s never any toilet paper or soap in the bathroom. That’s not even including typical toddler mess.
I love my sister and don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I can’t stand the filth. I’m beginning to make up stories about why I can’t visit which is hurting both of us.
Just as we shouldn’t correct someone’s manners – as it would be unmannerly — we shouldn’t correct our host’s level of cleanliness or lack thereof.
Options include, offering to help clean the various messes. The offer should be carefully worded, so it doesn’t appear as if you are judging her. For example: “You always have so much to do as mom-in-charge; please allow me to help pick up.” “Please allow me to help you with these dishes.”
Additionally, knowing that she never has toilet paper and soap, take some Kleenex and hand sanitizing gel with you. You could even use the gel in her presence telling her that you are fighting a cold. Another toilet paper and soap option is to ask her for some when you return from the bathroom. For example, “You’re out of toilet paper and soap in the bathroom; if you tell me where it is, I can put some in there for you.” …ever helpful you.
The trick is to appear helpful and kind, not judgmental. It’s a fine line to walk, but can be done.
My sister passed away a few months ago and it’s my brother-in-law’s first wedding anniversary without her. I feel like I should do something. Could I send a card?
A card is not as personal as a letter. In it, you could write about good memories of times all of you were together. This might help him through this difficult time.
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