Annie Lane: Holiday hijinks

Published 6:30 am Saturday, December 19, 2020

Dear Annie: I’m frustrated with my sister-in-law and the way that she plans the holidays that she hosts or organizes. Generally, what happens is that she will reach out to the family to see what will work for everyone. We’ll make any other plans around the agreed-upon plan. Then, closer to the holiday, my sister-in-law will change the plans saying that the new plans work better for her family. Most often the new plans conflict with other plans that we’ve made.

This year she not only changed the day and time of our family get-together but also decided that it would be held at her house rather than ours.

I don’t want to miss seeing the rest of our family since we likely won’t go to other holiday events that are being held indoors this year, but I feel like, if we keep accommodating her behavior, it will continue to happen. What’s your take on it?

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— Tired of Accommodating

Dear Tired of Accommodating: My take for this year is simple: Don’t go to or host indoor gatherings with people outside of your household. As for next year and the years after that, if and when your sister-in-law attempts these last-minute changes, just say no — politely, of course. You can keep it simple: Something like, “We’d like to keep to the time and place that we all agreed to.” It’s reasonable to ask that everyone stick to the agreed-upon time and place, out of consideration for everyone’s schedules. That’s the whole point of plans, after all.

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Dear Annie: My husband of decades has a habit that I don’t care for, and I can’t seem to make him understand the problem. I have run out of ideas, have asked counselors and anyone I can that might have an answer or suggestion. I am desperate to see whether you or your readers have any ideas.

The issue is this: If he sees anything around and he doesn’t recognize it, he throws it away. If you are right there, then you can stop him. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. I check the garbage for items regularly.

The last things he tossed out that I didn’t catch were my two photo albums from my childhood. My mom, dad and great-grandma worked on those two albums. Needless to say, the albums contained pictures of many individuals who are gone. I can’t seem to forgive him and get over it. It’s mostly grieving for what I can never see ever again. I thought I’d made him understand that these sentimental items are mine and that he has no right to throw something away without checking with me. Please help… I have tried counseling, both me alone and us together. I have left notes on items from matter-of-fact to rather nasty. I have tried explaining, every day, not to throw my things away. Please tell me how to deal with this problem. I am at my wit’s end!

— Missing My Things

Dear Missing: While not considered its own psychological disorder, compulsive decluttering can be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I encourage you to find a 2015 article on The Atlantic website, entitled “The Opposite of Hoarding,” and see whether the behavior described reminds you of your husband. Though you’ve tried therapy yourself and attended couples therapy with him, he may benefit from individual therapy on his own, potentially for the treatment of OCD. If I hear any insights from readers, I’ll be sure to print them here.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to