Annie Lane: Dealing with difficult siblings

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Dear Readers: The letter “Calling It Quits” about coping with an unreasonable sibling — who the parents insist must be placated — generated an intense response from readers. Here are two interesting examples:

Dear Annie: I love your column and agree with you most of the time, but you really struck out on your response to “Calling It Quits.” I grew up being made to apologize to a sibling to keep the peace, even though my parents agreed they were wrong. My sibling was physically, verbally and mentally abusive to me from a young age.

They weren’t satisfied until I was reduced to tears and made to feel like an inferior human being. Many of these incidents were carried out in public. This carried on into adulthood. I was not the only person subjected to this abuse. I witnessed this sibling’s spouses and children being subjected to the same treatment.

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I love this sibling, but for my own mental health, I had to severely limit contact.

I had to walk away from this toxic situation and maintain my boundaries with no apologies. You deserve to be respected.

— Been There,

Done That

Dear Been There, Done That: If walking away from the situation is what made you feel the most respected and happiest, then by all means walk away. But if your goal is to have contact with your sibling and repair the relationship, then some form of compromise and understanding has to happen.

• • •

Dear Annie: You gave excellent advice to the mother of two brothers who haven’t spoken in years. My brother also hasn’t spoken to me in years except to verbally abuse or attempt to intimidate me.

My mother tells me to be quiet and not say anything back to him. It varies if, when and how he speaks to the other sisters. He hasn’t spoken to me at all since our father died, except to argue and literally get in my face at the funeral home over the choice of pallbearers.

He then called my daughter — not me — to apologize for this. He refuses to come to any family gatherings, at anyone’s house, so luckily I see him rarely. I can’t do anything about his poor attitude, and I will stick up for myself when attacked. But I am hurt when my mother continues to defend our brother’s behavior over us.

Dear Hurting: I am sorry that you and your brother have not been able to come to a peaceful understanding. Keep trying. Sometimes it just takes one kind olive branch to build a whole tree.

“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to