Hurt feelings and how to make them right

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • It really bothers me that whenever I talk to my sisters who live in other cities, they never ask about my fiancĂ©. Obviously, they do not approve of our relationship. I find this rude and improper and an underhanded way of showing their disapproval and in the process insulting me. If I say anything directly and THEN they change their behavior, it would be meaningless since it is forced, and if I don't say anything, this embarrassing behavior will continue. What is the best way to handle this?


Dear Miffed • By not being so quick to dismiss the value of asking for better treatment. Per your calculations, people who behave badly either have to figure out their own errors — and intuit just what amends will be to your liking — or take up permanent residency on your bad side. How punitive. If you were to say, "When you talk to me without even mentioning my fiance, I feel really hurt. What's going on?" you would actually be talking to your sisters, instead of assigning them opinions and actions in your mind. The full story is never as tidy as the one that starts with "Obviously ... ," but it usually ends better.

Dear Carolyn • A close friend just had a major, milestone birthday. She has five adult children who all live within 25 miles. Not one of them did anything special for her on her birthday. One called and one texted. She was very hurt that her children ignored this particular birthday. She always has special dinners for them on their birthdays. I don't think they realize how hurt she was. She won't tell them. As a close family friend, should I?


Dear W. • Assuming you're close enough to least one of these kids to give a quick call, this requires such low-key intervention that it's hard to see why you wouldn't do it. "Hey, your mom is sad that the kids generally forgot her birthday, and I thought you'd want to know ... I'm acting on my own here, by the way, your mom didn't want to say anything." If your close friend was normally casual about birthdays but has cared more lately, maybe in response to loneliness, then that's all the more reason to speak up.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.