My husband’s brother has multiple health issues—some of his own making—and all of them exaggerated. He hijacks every conversation so that he can talk about himself and his health. His problems include mental and emotional ones, too. Family members try to avoid him at gatherings but someone always has to listen to his "organ recital.” At a nephew's college graduation party, this brother-in-law was giving his speech to a terminally ill man, who the hostess was finally able to rescue. There are two family weddings coming up this year, and we know my brother-in-law will recite his list of problems to whoever is unfortunate enough to sit near him. Is there a way to intervene without being impolite to either the BIL or his victim?
—He’s a Gasbag
Keep in mind that however exaggerated your brother-in-law’s physical health problems, his mental ones sound real enough. So he deserves firm but sympathetic handling. Since you’re going to be a guest at these weddings, you and your husband should suggest to the couples getting married that you two—and you’d like some other family volunteers—will offer yourselves up for chaperone duty for your brother. A group of kind family members should then keep an eye out for the brother-in-law at the reception and intercept him when he’s gone on long enough with an innocent guest. Then during dinner several of you should take turns sitting next to brother-in-law for 15-minute intervals. You each can explain the musical chairs by saying, “Bob, it’s been too long, I wanted to sit next to you and hear how you’re doing!” Then zone out while murmuring an occasional, “That sounds awful.” This will be a better gift to the bride and groom than anything you could purchase off their registry.
I’ve often wondered whether grooms noticed when their brides-to-be went on rampages of self-acclamation. Then, a year ago this email arrived in my inbox:
My fiancée and I are having some difficulties regarding budget issues for our wedding. I found out that in addition to choosing the most expensive vendors possible, she has hired a choreographer and could spend considerably more than $10,000 for costumes, dancers, dance lessons, etc. for a wedding performance piece starring her. It screams of excess and narcissism and I find it distasteful. I would be much more comfortable with a simple ceremony and reception. Where should I draw the line? My feeling is that a wedding is about a celebration of family and friends, and we should try to be good hosts, while her opinion is that this is a day for people to celebrate and focus on us. Do I have a leg to stand on to tell her I think that the dance is a waste of money and embarrassing, or should I back off?
I sent a private, one-line reply to the groom. Recently, I received this update:
Your response to me was a simple, "Why are you marrying this woman?" That question hit me like a rock to the head. I tried to draft a couple of responses, but since I couldn't justify anything to myself on paper, I couldn't send something to you. We had some painful discussions about what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to live our lives and realized that those two visions weren't as similar as we had originally envisioned. Ultimately, we weren't the right people for each other, even though we tried our best. My fiancée and I separated shortly after I sent you the letter. While I loved her, I realized that you had pointed out a flaw in our relationship; I should have had a very clear answer to the question and I didn't. I know that I will the next time I am considering walking down the aisle.
“Stop the Scourge of Wedding Presents: They’re outdated, inefficient, unfair, and unnecessary,” by Matthew Yglesias. Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013.
“My Big Fat Disney Wedding: I’m a tomboy, not a princess. Here’s why getting married at a huge theme park was a delightfully practical decision,” by Rachael Larimore. Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013.
“This Is the Last Time I Will Ever See You: After every wedding, there is a dear friend who will immediately disappear from your life. And that’s OK,” by David Plotz. Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.
“Click Here to RSVP: Online invites are now far better than paper. And yes, you should even use them for your wedding,” by Farhad Manjoo. Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.
“How to Be a Better Best Man: Flirt with the mother of the bride, but don’t grind with her,” by Troy Patterson. Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.
More Dear Prudence Columns
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“My Gay Husband: He’s closeted, but I don't mind. Should I set him free anyway?” Posted March 15, 2012.
“Gastric Warfare: I fear my mother-in-law is poisoning me, but my husband doesn’t believe it.” Posted March 8, 2012.
“Smell Ya Later!: Should I break up with my fiance because he thinks I have horrible body odor?.” Posted March 1, 2012.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
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“Whoa, Momma: During a live chat, Dear Prudence offers advice on having children after tragedy, elective surrogacy, and the demands of parenting twins.” Posted March 26, 2012.
“Should I Leave My Infertile Partner?: In a live chat, Dear Prudence advises a man who wants to bolt after learning his girlfriend can’t have kids.” Posted March 19, 2012.
“Sex Education: In a live chat, Prudie advises a student whose pregnant friend doesn’t know where babies come from.” Posted March 12, 2012.