“My Boyfriend’s Sister Is Ruining Thanksgiving”

From the forums:

My boyfriend, “Fred,” and I have been together for over four years. During our first three years together, Fred and his sister were not speaking due to a fight they’d had a year before we got together. I only met her a year ago and she was very cold to me. He’s not close with her, but they text every now and then. She’s very close with his ex, whom she knew during the eleven years the ex and Fred were married. His ex hates me and has threatened to physically attack me if she ever sees me in person, which makes coordinating holidays very difficult as they have three children together.

I grew up in a house where Thanksgiving and Christmas were very important and we had a lot of traditions. In order to be with Fred, I had to move across the country from my family, so I can’t celebrate with them. Travel isn’t possible right now.

I always try to coordinate holidays so that Fred gets time with his kids (which usually means going to his ex’s house where his sister usually spends holidays) but so that he also spends time with me. Sometimes we have the kids over and have our own day, like our own Thanksgiving on a different day, and then the kids celebrate with their mom and extended family on actual Thanksgiving and my boyfriend and I spend the day together. I think this is a good compromise. I don’t want to rob him of a holiday with his children, but I don’t want to miss out on the holidays with Fred, either.

This year his sister bought a house with her new husband and they have a baby. She lives two hours away and texted Fred a few days ago to invite him to Thanksgiving at her house, saying she’d already invited his ex and the kids. I was furious.

Fred’s mother (who absolutely loves me and has always tried to include me whenever she can) was also furious, and talked about skipping Thanksgiving because of this. The sister’s husband even agreed and thought I should be invited over the ex, but the sister refused to listen. Fred told his sister he wasn’t going to leave me alone on Thanksgiving and he couldn’t make it, and she said, “Understandable. See you next time.”

Now I’m terrified she’s going to ruin Christmas and every holiday for the foreseeable future. What should I do? The only way I can talk to the sister is through Facebook, but I feel like maybe I should try that. I don’t particularly want to be friends with her, but I don’t see why she should control all the holidays and get the chance to exclude me so she can invite the ex.

Fred doesn’t want to fight with either his ex or his sister – the former because of their children and his feeling guilty about leaving them, the latter because they just reconciled last year and fighting again would upset their mother. I just don’t know what to do. I want everyone to have holiday time, but no one is fighting for me. — Left Out of Thanksgiving

DON’T reach out to Fred’s sister, especially not over email, Facebook, or text or in any way where tone can easily be misconstrued. You know Fred’s sister is a problem, likely difficult to communicate with, and biased against you. You won’t gain anything by trying to reason with her, and you’ll probably make the situation worse. Any communication that happens needs to be among Fred and his sister, family, and ex.

That doesn’t mean you are totally powerless here. You can continue celebrating holidays with Fred when he has his kids. (I’m curious what the custody arrangement is. Do Fred and his ex alternate holidays with the kids? Is it up in the air? Having a set arrangement in place would certainly help in making plans!) You can also be proactive about including extended family in your plans by sending invites out early. For example, it’s certainly not too early to “reserve” a Christmas celebration — Christmas Eve or Christmas morning or Christmas afternoon — at your place, with Fred’s kids, and to invite his parents and his sister and her family. Then the onus is on the sister to accept or reject the invitation, but you know you’ll at least have Fred, his kids, and probably his parents (since they love you, which is great!).

Also, people with multiple sets of parents (because of divorce) or in-laws (because of marriage) often have multiple holiday celebrations, not just over the course of a couple days but on the actual holiday itself. Plenty of people have a Thanksgiving lunch at one home early in the afternoon and either a dinner or dessert at another home later in the day. What would happen if you and Fred, who have basically been iced out of his sister’s Thanksgiving because she invited the ex-wife who has threatened to physically attack you, hosted your own Thanksgiving and invited the same players over (his parents and his kids)? They would be in the position that many people find themselves in where they have multiple holiday meals at different locations. Maybe not super ideal, but doable. People do it all the time.

What really needs to happen though is for Fred to suck it up and talk with his charming sister and ex-wife and make it clear in no uncertain terms that this shit will not be tolerated. The physical threats against you are not ok. Those should be taken up with a lawyer and be considered in custody arrangements. And he should talk to his crappy sister about her crappy behavior, regardless of how his mother will feel if it results in another falling out. Are his mother’s feelings more important than yours? And what kind of relationship do Fred and his sister even have when it’s limited to occasional texts and she feels zero sense of remorse in excluding you, her brother’s girlfriend of four years, from family get-togethers? If this is what a “reconciliation” looks like, I think there’s not much love to be lost to begin with. Their mother needs to accept that her kids don’t get along and that her relationship and time with each may have to be exclusive of the other. She’ll survive.

None of this is fun, I get that. And I’m sure the exclusion stings even more so because you miss your own family and your holiday traditions with them and can’t get home to see them. Maybe focusing on a way to get back next year will also help you deal with your boyfriend’s fractured family scenario. In the end, what’s most important to remember is that you and Fred are in charge and in control of the time you and Fred spend together. No one can “steal” a holiday from you guys, even if it means celebrating it with his kids on a different day. When you get hung up on the fine details — the who and where and when — and let that cloud the more important details of the love to be shared and the ability to get to be together at all even if it’s not exactly when you might prefer, you let the losers win. Don’t let the losers win.

I am a 30-year-old single mother of a 6-year-old girl. It was basically just the two of us for three years until I met my current boyfriend, Rob. Rob is the best in many ways: respectful, mature, down to earth, and smart. Plus, my daughter adores him and we have really become a family; she even calls him “Dad.”

The first year was the best, but then we moved in together and his sex drive kind of… disappeared. I noticed that, instead of having sex four or five times a week, it quickly became once every two weeks. When I asked him about it, he would simply say that he was tired. The first few months we would still have sex, but only because I would ask. One day I decided to let him want me, and nothing happened for six months. When I ask, he says that for him sex is not important, that he is just tired, and that, no, he is not cheating. I even asked if he was gay, and he said no to that as well.

I know it’s a delicate subject especially for guys, so I never shout and I always stay calm when communicating. I begged him to tell me if maybe I am the problem, if maybe I should change something; I asked him to see a doctor as maybe that would give us answers. He finally went to the doctor and nothing was wrong with the blood test results, so I asked him to see a sex expert, saying that I would go with him if he wanted me to, but he doesn’t do anything.

I love him, but I am not happy. One day I am telling myself that it’s over, the next day I will look at him and think, “Why would I leave him when apart from the sex issue everything is going well?” Plus, I don’t want to break his or my daughter’s heart. I hate that I start thinking about other guys just for sex — I am not the kind of person to cheat — but my mind is driving me nuts!

What should I do? Am I being selfish? Should I be more patient? It has been two years, but nothing changes and I am completely lost. I don’t want a life without him, but I don’t want to stay with him if it remains this way. — Tired of Waiting

Your boyfriend has made clear that he doesn’t care about your feelings. He is fine and that’s that, and your needs don’t really matter. It’s not fun, but you have to make a choice. We are often faced with choices in life that aren’t the most ideal, that leave us unsatisfied, sad, and wishing things could be different. Most relationships don’t work out. Think of all the relationships you’ve had in your life. None have worked out so far, right? It’s what makes finding the “right one” so special. Because so many things have to feel right in order for a relationship to work — you have to be compatible in a variety of ways, you have to trust each other, like each other, love each other, have chemistry, have shared values and goals, have mutual respect, and have commitment to meeting one another’s needs. If any of those things is off and it can’t be fixed (especially if one or both partners don’t want to put in the effort in trying to fix it), the relationship can’t work. That doesn’t negate how wonderful every other aspect of the relationship might be. Indeed, that’s what makes breaking up so painful; when you feel deeply that so much of the relationship is good and wonderful, it especially hurts when there’s something that simply cannot be overcome to make the relationship successful.

Most relationships don’t work out. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but when we do — when we accept that that’s the realistic truth of it — it helps give us the push we need to leave when it’s time. It doesn’t ease the pain — it’s not supposed to. Breakups really hurt. They break hearts — especially when kids are involved. They take time to process and heal from. They leave us a little bruised and maybe gun-shy about pursuing a new relationship. But, hopefully, they teach us, too. They teach us a little more about what we absolutely need, what our deal-breakers are, and what we can afford to be a little more flexible about. Every breakup brings us so much closer to the right relationship — the one that won’t fall apart and leave us broken-hearted. Every breakup brings us closer to the relationship that will work out. I don’t think this is that relationship for you… but it could be the breakup that leads to the one that is.

My husband’s 26-year-old daughter has moved in with us several times over the four years we have been married. She never helps around the house or pays any bills, and this has caused several arguments. The last time she was moving back in my husband and I had decided to sit her down and lay down ground rules, but when the time came to do so, he refused. When I got angry about being a maid to her, to her child, and to her very large dog, I was told that, if I didn’t like it, I could get my stuff and get out. So now we live apart and she has her daddy to herself again.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give. — Not the Maid

Divorce the motherfucker.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. dinoceros says:

    LW1: Wendy gave a lot of good advice. Unless your boyfriend is willing to deal with his sister, this is probably going to be your life for the foreseeable future. I think that you should determine if you’re OK with that prior to making any additional commitments, like marriage. If not, then you should wait for clear evidence that things have changed beforehand.

    LW2: Saying everything is fine except the sex (when you really mean, “except that he knows I am unhappy and doesn’t care one bit about that changing ever”) is like saying that you like your job except that they don’t pay you. You shouldn’t be wanting to dump your boyfriend half the time if you have a good relationship. And the longer you stay together, the more you will resent him. Like Wendy said, relationships end. By dating, you have to accept that not every relationship will last forever.

  2. AmokAmokAmok says:

    Wendy’s answer to LW3 might be my favourite response ever. Just sayin…

  3. LW 1- Did I miss something? Why are the sister and the ex so hateful to you? Did you have any part in his leaving his ex and family? If so, I get why they are hating on you. If not, I am confused as to why, but they may just be trifling bitches.
    I understand that Fred doesn’t want to fight with them. I agree with Wendy that he should handle his custody situation legally. He should not have to kiss his exes ass to be able to see his kids. It should all be legally arranged and he should have set dates with them and celebrate with them then. He (or you) shouldn’t ever have to deal with her threatening you. Period. He should see a lawyer and be done. He should quit playing their games.
    LW 2 – I would say there are a lot of medical reasons that could cause a man to lose his sex drive…zinc deficiency, low testosterone, weight gain, depression, medications to name a few. I don’t know if a simple blood test would show those. There are many different types of blood tests. The problem is that if he isn’t interested in getting to the root of the problem he obviously isn’t interested in keeping you happy. That means he obviously is not the one. As far as your daughter goes, she will adjust. I know it sounds mean, but she will and you don’t need to stay with someone you are unhappy with just to fill the daddy void.
    LW3-Your husband is a jerk and he isn’t doing his daughter any favors by letting her be a lazy mooch. They deserve each other.

  4. LW2: He may just be asexual. I could’ve written the letter, except with a few changes. Except I feel asexual a lot too (maybe not as often as my hubby, my libido is somewhat higher than his). I think this is a compatibility issue. You just aren’t on the same page sexually and that is okay– you two might be awesome people, but just not compatible with each other.
    LW3: WWS! !!

  5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW3 This is the marriage you will have with your husband. He is saying that if you want him you take care of his family or you live separately. I’d move on because you aren’t going to be happy with either of those options. Whatever you do don’t allow him to drop by for sex and don’t go by his place and tidy up.

  6. Stillrunning says:

    LW3-Get divorced and don’t look back. Don’t be nice to him, he’s not worth it; be good to yourself.

  7. LW1: the boyfriend doesn’t sound like he has a visitation/holiday schedule set. He should NOT be spending holidays with his ex-wife just to see his kids. He needs to speak with her and set up a schedule where they split the holidays somehow. If she won’t cooperate, he needs to speak with an attorney. Typically in divorce, they take turns on holidays or (less ideal) split the day in half. Moms get their birthday and mother’s day, dads get their birthday and father’s day. Everything else is split as yours, mine, yours, mine.

  8. Missmommynicenice says:

    Yikes on LW2. Wendy missed an opportunity to suggest ethical non monogamy. Having sex with other people doesn’t have to be cheating. If you live everything about this guy except your sex life, there’s ways around that. Either open our polyamourus. Open means you can do what you want with whomever you want within the rules you set together. Poly is you acquire a lover or two that you have a relationship with regularly also within the rules you and your BF set together. It’s a hard conversation to have but it’s an option between being unfulfilled and breaking up. Look into it. I suggest How to Do It or Dear Prudy for good advice on how to breech the subject.

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