Shortcuts: “His 18-Year-old Sister Can’t Keep Her Hands Off Him!”

No, it’s not Friday yet (sorry, it’s just Tuesday), but since I expect many of you will be enjoying a shortened week/long holiday weekend, I thought I’d post Shortcuts a few days early. Plus, I don’t have any letters at the moment I feel inspired to answer (so, if you have a burning/juicy relationship question, send it in!).

For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

Is it inappropriate for the sister of my soon-to-be son-in-law to physically hang all over her 30-year-old brother? My friends and family think it is, I am embarrassed by it, and my daughter is beyond frustrated with it. We were at the beach and my daughter and her fiancé were hugging in the ocean when the 18-year-old sister goes up to her brother and wraps her arms and legs around him. Isn’t this inappropriate? It is very awkward and embarrassing for everyone else, though their parents see nothing wrong with this. The rest of us think it’s weird and looks bad. The sister pretty much demands attention from her brother and he really does not say too much for fear of what his parents will say or of upsetting his sister. How exactly should this be handled? — Extremely Disgusted By This Public Display

Well, not by you, that’s for sure. As inappropriate as you may find the 18-year-old sister’s behavior (and her parents’ unfazed reaction to it), it’s equally inappropriate for you to make this your concern. It’s your daughter marrying into this family; if she’s bothered by her future SIL’s behavior and her fiancé’s handling of it, it’s her job to express that discomfort and discuss a possible solution with her fiancé that doesn’t alienate herself from her future in-laws. You would be wise to loosen the apron strings and let your daughter begin navigating her relationship and new family dynamics on her own. The 18-year-old isn’t the only one here who’s getting a little too close for comfort.

My boyfriend and the future father of my baby (due in January) became a father to a different baby born this month. When he told me about the baby, he wasn’t sure if it was his or not, and, since the relationship he had with the mother wasn’t as strong as ours is, I’m not so worried, though I am concerned about conflicting situations and stress on him. What should I do to stay strong for him? He is here for me and is completely honest and tells me the only communication he has with the mother is only for the concern of the baby. I trust and believe him, but, hey, I am a woman, and that’s my man… — His Second Baby Mama

He may be your man, but he’s a father to one newborn baby and another on the way and that’s a bigger priority right now. Sorry, Charlie, but you’re about to take a back seat to the demands and stresses of his mounting responsibilities. And if you don’t, then that doesn’t speak well of him as a dad. Focus on taking care of yourself during the rest of your pregnancy and being as present and strong for your baby-to-be as you can. Something tells me that child will be lucky to have one solid parent in its corner.

My partner and I are in the middle of relocating to another state to live. We have a young daughter, and he asked us to drive up to be with him, which I did. Only to have him tell me he had slept with another woman. He also eyed a women right in front of me. Now I’m unsure whether to move forward on my own or buy a home with him and put it all behind us. I’d like to think he is committed to us, but I’m unsure on that as well. If I go pack up to relocate, and move to be with him, would it be disaster?
Would he stay faithful and committed to us? — To Move or Not

Obviously, I don’t know whether your partner would remain faithful and committed to you, but I’d say his cheating — and seeming lack of remorse — would be a pretty strong indication that he very well will cheat again. If you want to avoid a potential disaster, then avoid moving to another state with a young child to be with a man you don’t trust. Stay where you and tell your partner that, if he wants you both in his life, he needs to prove his commitment to you first. Also, this should go without saying: Do NOT quit any job you have or put yourself in a position where you depend on this man for financial support to pay your bills. If he can’t be trusted to remain faithful to you, he can’t be trusted to support you either.

I’m in a very new relationship with a very old close friend and I’m curious about our sleeping position. We sleep spooning with me holding him, but then he wants to wrap our legs up all at the same time. What does this mean? — Big Spoon

That maybe he gets cold feet?


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  1. The situation in letter one is weird. Sister or not, why can’t she allow a couple to have a “moment” in the ocean without jumping in for attention? Can’t stand people like that. LW probably needs to butt out, but how awkward that others find the behavior to be inappropriate (I do too but I’m also not physically affectionate with family).

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      Eh, is the sister jumping in for attention or are the LW and her daugher expecting the fiance to only pay attention to the daughter?
      I’m kind of over, reading letters here where the women are all pissed because their man is paying ANY kind of attention to their siblings. It’s like once they have put their claim on him, he’s never allowed to touch, kiss, or hug another woman-even his sister. It’s kind of sad actually and shows a lot of insecurity.
      I dunno, if my husband had to ‘talk’ to me about the amount and kind of affection that I showed my male siblings, I would have shown him the door.

      1. I’m with you. I think all of this is perfectly normal with siblings who are close- and in this case, I’m sure the 12-year age gap made him a brother-father figure to the younger sister. Whenever we see these letters, I can’t help thinking it’s such a non-issue that’s being blown out of proportion by weird puritanical outsiders.

      2. I also agree. My husband has a sister (20 year age gap) and has always wrestled a lot with her. She is now almost 15 and I actually really respect that my husband has kept this part of their relationship alive (following her cues) even with her being older and more physically mature. I hear a lot of teenagers complain that their dad or other male role models remove the physical aspect of their relationship when they hit puberty, but sometimes they just want to wrestle like they did as a kid. When my husband is in the pool with his sister, odds are she is climbing on his back (with her legs wrapped around him) trying to dunk him in the water. This is just how they always acted in the pool together, and it would seem like a shame to stop it now that she is older and is getting more of a womanly body. I would hope that they still can act this way at 18 (assuming they both still find that activity fun) without it being weird. There is no part of the activity that is sexual, it’s just them horsing around in the pool like they did when she was a kid. My husband would think I was totally nuts if I told him he couldn’t play around with his sister anymore because it was making me jealous and I was worried they were too physically intimate.

      3. I am 29 to my little brother’s 17 and last week I tickled him to the ground because he kept stealing the remote from me. He’s 6 feet to my 5 foot 3- tickling is the only defense I have! If someone made an observance like LW1 did about that, I’d roll my eyes so hard, they’d probably fall out of my head.
        ETA: I got the remote back.

      4. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

        I get what you are saying to a point. But from LW’s view of the situation, she saw her daughter and her fiance embracing while in the ocean, then 18yo sister comes up and wraps her arms and legs around him? I agree that sometimes there is some quick jumping to conclusions here, but CMON. This isnt wholly innocent.

      5. I guess I disagree without knowing more about the context because I am fairly certain my SIL has used a hug between by husband and I as a distraction so she can sneak up and dunk my husband in the pool. She is so much smaller that she uses any distraction to get the advantage and I doubt she would think anyone would think anything sexual about what she was doing. But I can say that having known my husband longer than he’s even had a sister and seeing their relationship evolve over her whole life. I could see it being totally innocent, or in a different context, I could see it being weird and inappropriate. I guess because the couple was just hugging and it was in a very public place (in the ocean with family around) I have trouble thinking that it was a super-sexual embrace between the couple. And without knowing more about everyone’s relationship, it’s hard for me to jump to the conclusion that it’s inappropriate without more information about their relationship. I would hate for my husband to be judged as having an inappropriate relationship with his sister because she wrapped her legs around him (in a nonsexual way) in a pool.

  2. Wendy, I just wanted to let you know that for the past 2 days I’ve been getting pop-ups on your site, they’re from E Online and it will open a new tab and direct me over to the tab. It keeps happening, like once or twice per minute. Not sure if anyone else is having the same problem. I’m going to try using a different browser and see if the problem continues (I’m currently using Internet Explorer.)

    LOL at LW4! It doesn’t “mean” anything! Hilarious.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Thanks for letting me know. Is anyone else experiencing this?

      1. I usually only browse mobile, but I’ve gotten popups but close them before I know where they’re taking me. It’s usually only right after I click a header link. I’ve also gotten redirected to the App Store a few times (I’m using the Mercury browser)

      2. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        I’m using Chrome, haven’t experienced any pop-ups, or warnings that pop-ups have been blocked.

      3. The only thing I experienced lately was when trying to type a reply the site would automatically repeat what I typed. It only happens on my android but it only happens on this site. :/ So If I try and type “I can’t believe this” It will fill out as “I can’tIcan’t believe thisbelieve this”. Admittedly it could be just the computer gods smiting me. We don’t have the best relationship.

      4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I had to block plugins because on this site, and only this site, I was getting an aggressive video ad. By aggressive I mean the ad would come on and wouldn’t let me pan away from it. It would pull the page back to the ad no matter how many times I tried to move away from it and the ad would run over and over. If I closed the page and tried again I would get about a minute before the ad popped up and hijacked the page again. Blocking plugins stopped it entirely.

      5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        This was happening no matter what browser I used. I’ve been using Chrome the most.

      6. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Was that a recent thing (the aggressive video ads)? I ask because about 5 weeks ago, I switched ad networks and now have one network that manages all the ads for me (which has decreased my work load and increased my revenue by more than double, so big hooray for that!). If the aggressive ads you noticed happened more than a month ago, they’re probably gone now. If it’s been in the last month, that’s something I should know so I can alert the ad network. Thanks for your help in troubleshooting!

      7. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I think it was over a month ago.

      8. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I’ve been trying to post a comment as a reply to a comment left by someone else and I keep getting a message saying it is a duplicate reply even though it isn’t.

    2. Internet Explorer is going to do that to you because it’s so old the current way the internet works doesn’t comply with it anymore. Basically IE is as obsolete as AOL. Developers don’t code for IE anymore because it’s so archaic, so often it won’t work the way it should Switch to Chrome and you should be fine.

      1. It’s funny b/c I use Firefox at home but I’m a creature of habit and have always used IE at work. Time to switch I suppose!

  3. shakeourtree says:

    I would cut the little sister in this scenario some slack, honestly. Her brother is 12 years older than her, so she probably did not get to spend much time with him growing up. And now she might feel like she’s finally old enough to start relating to him as an adult, but he’s already moving on to the next stage in life and getting married. I am probably (definitely) projecting here because my own brother is 8 years older than me. He moved out of the house when I was still in elementary school, and by the time I got to college and reconnected with him, he was already married. So it feels like we missed out on the sibling bonding time as adults, and that’s really disappointing to me because our personalities mesh so well together that I think we could have been really great friends in a different world. I mean, I never got all touchy with him or anything, but we’re not at all physically affectionate as family. Regardless, it’s none of the LW’s business. If the fiance has a problem with it, she needs to deal with it herself. And she should also be prepared for a response she doesn’t like…

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      Yeah, I get where you are coming from. I think it is a bit more of a weird habit that sister hasnt been able to break free of/baby of the family and center of attention thing. Like, when she was younger (and he would have been about middle school age when she was born) she was clingy and wanted to be like her older brother or something, so she followed him around, etc. Buuuut an 18 year old girl wrapping her arms AND legs around a 30 year old man with his (presumably age -appropriate) fiancee looking on (while all are in bathing suits, presumably 18yo in a teensy bikini) is beyond creepy. Still none of LW’s business, but extremely uncomfortable for anyone present, Im sure.

      1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        Not necessarily. I think if she was playing around with him (i.e. sneaking up on him and jumping on his back) then it’s not so creepy or sexual. Some families are more affectionate than others. And that’s just how they demonstrate affection/love.
        I didn’t grow up in a house where my mother ever kissed or hugged us- she just didn’t. But in my house, we are very affectionate. There is always someone horsing around with someone, hugging someone, or in general touching someone to get on their nerves. It’s nothing for my son to wrap someone up in a bear hug (his sisters or me). Sometimes, I think it’s more to annoy us than anything but that’s just what he does.
        I’m just very suspect of anyone who immediately thinks there’s an inappropriate relationship between siblings who show the slightest affection towards each other.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        The thing that makes it inappropriate is that it appears to have happened while he was hugging his fiance. That seems rude and an invasion of their relationship. I’d be annoyed to if someone kept interrupting my private moments even if they are in a public location. If the couple was hugging pretty much nonstop then that is different. It could even be a break it up moment because we don’t all want to watch your nonstop public display of affection.

      3. “It could even be a break it up moment because we don’t all want to watch your nonstop public display of affection.”

        It kind of feels like a combination of this and “Hey we’re not that old even though I’m graduating and you’re getting married; we can still horse around, right?” to me.

  4. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    LW1, I get it. The situation sounds creepy as sh*t. But really, not your business. At all. The most you can do without becoming THAT GUY (you know who- that annoying person who doles out advice to EVERYONE they come in contact with, solicited or not) is to agree with your daughter when she vents to you about it. Let her come to her own conclusions about it.
    LW2, Umm DUH WHAT? If my math is correct, and Baby Momma 1 got pregnant around Sept/Oct and you, Baby Momma 2 around April/May, then that equals…Time to Get Tested for STDs and to learn about birth control. Also, time to see if you are in fact Baby Momma numbers 5 and 6 or somesuch.
    LW3, …., ummm, good luck trusting this guy. I got nothing else.
    LW4, Im not really sure what you are asking, but I think Wendy hit the nail on the head. Is this some new-fangled fad, like reading tea leaves but you read sleeping positions?

    1. Oh it’s not new, I ranted about some article I saw on FB a few weeks ago claiming that the way you sleep tells you about your relationship. I am currently rolling my eyes so hard it hurts.

      1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

        Oh geez. How… moronic. I just face-palmed so hard I think I hurt my forehead. 😉

      2. I think I saw the article floating around but haven’t actually read it. Last night I was almost completely sideways with my feet propped up on my husband’s hips (he was on his side turned away from me)… what does that say about our relationship? Probably that I’m 9 months pregnant and once I found a comfortable position to sleep in, he knew not to bother me.

      3. I guess that means my relationship changes several times per night, because sometimes we like to turn over?

    2. Cosmopolitan ran an article of that flavor every now and then. I still joke about it with my boyfriend when we are in bed. “Right now this position means you are hiding feelings from me. Anything you want to tell me ?” “I’m warm and the fan is in that direction”.

  5. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    LW1: Seriously, this is none of your business at all. Maybe the sister likes attention, and maybe they are just an affectionate family. If your daughter doesn’t like it, she should speak up. But you should absolutely butt out.

    LW2: …this is directed more at women (because of f*^!king course it is, none of the top search results are directed at men), but still. Maybe pass it on to your boyfriend so he’ll stop impregnating people?

    LW3: The answer to your question is ‘Almost definitely not’

    LW4: What?

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      *Almost* definitely not? I like your optimism! 🙂

      1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        Hope springs eternal, or something along those lines

      2. ##anythingcanhappen

  6. shakeourtree says:

    I’m now imagining all of my exes frantically googling, “What does it mean when your girlfriend physically pushes you away from her when we’re sleeping?” (It means don’t touch me when I’m sleeping.)

  7. LW4: It means you are in bed with a man who likes you touching him. However, if you keep overthinking it, there may still be time to screw it up.

  8. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 In the context that you described, your daughter and her fiance hugging and his sister throwing herself onto the fiance, I’m assuming while in the middle of hugging your daughter, that seems too much. At the same time your daughter needs to understand the context of hugging in his family. Do they do family hugs? We used to do them a lot, not so much any more. If they do family hugs, where the family joins in when they see a hug, it may just mean that they see your daughter as a member of the family and any hug as a potential family hug. On the other hand, if they do nothing of the sort and the sister interrupts hugs between her brother and your daughter it could be something like jealousy or trying to seek attention.

    So first, you daughter needs to think about this in the context of his family and their family culture of hugging.

    Second, if she asks your opinion or advice, then give her advice on how to talk to her fiance in a constructive way that in no way belittles the relationship that he has with his sister. At the same time, he needs to learn to set boundaries that make his relationship with his fiance primary and his family of origin secondary. In this case, your daughter could specifically ask him to ask his sister to wait until your daughter and her fiance aren’t hugging to hug him. If she then disregards that request he needs to know in advance how he would handle the situation. In general he needs to know what he would say and do. He could say hey, back off, I’m hugging X and would appreciate it if you gave us a moment alone while untangling himself from her, turning his back on her and hugging his fiance . Then he could give his sister a hug, which in this instance I would probably make shorter than the hug with the fiance, more as an emphasis on priorities and the fact that she interrupted in the first place.

  9. Truelight says:

    LW2- At this point I’d be pretty darn cautious. I’d also avoid moving to be with him or getting his name tattooed on- though the latter is always a bad idea. He’s looking at two children by two women in one year. The odds are not in your favor here.

    LW3- Do not move to be with this man. Move if it’s best for *you*- better job, more family/friends support- but not for him. He’s already proven to be untrustworthy on one front, so don’t put yourself in the position of depending on someone who isn’t dependable.

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