Dear Amy: My wife and I host a family dinner every Friday night. There’s only one problem: my sister’s ill-mannered eating habits.
She is a wonderful aunt to my kids and does many extraordinarily thoughtful things, however, her eating has taken a toll on me. I simply can’t enjoy my dinner when she is at the table. She attacks her food like a starving animal; she gulps her water so loudly that everyone at the table hears, she chews with her mouth open and she talks while chewing her food. On top of that, she can be counted on to loudly blow her nose at the table at least twice! She blames her loud gulping on a stroke that she suffered some 30 years ago. I really doubt that, but, OK, what about all the other things?
We’ve always had a strained relationship and the very LAST person that she wants to hear from about this is me.
She greatly respects my wife, but my wife won’t say anything, even though she’s put off by my sister’s eating habits, as well.
If I say anything, I risk that she will not come over again; if I don’t say anything, my weekly dinners will continue to be ruined.
Please, what are my options? — Disgusted Brother
Dear Disgusted: This topic evidently has come up before — because your sister has offered a (plausible) explanation for her gulping.
Your “option” here is to pull up your trousers and speak — privately and respectfully — to your sister. In one sense, the fact that you already have a strained relationship means that there is less relationship at risk. Say to her, “We love having you with us. You are a wonderful and thoughtful family member. I’m wondering if you can work on your eating habits while you’re at the table — especially chewing with your mouth open and talking while you’re chewing. I know it is probably hard to change the way you eat, but it’s driving me bananas and I’m asking if you could at least try.”
If your sister is offended and chooses to stay away from your meals for a while, there is not much you can do about it. Stay in touch and let her know that you miss her and that she is always welcome.
After offering a gentle and private correction to her, you should work on ways you might learn to tolerate her poor table habits. Something as simple as changing the seating might help.
Dear Amy: Another Mother’s Day has passed, and again my husband did nothing for me. No gift. No flowers. No dinner out. Not even a card.
It’s pretty much the same for Valentine’s Day and our anniversary.
I usually receive something small for Christmas and my birthday, but it’s typically a thoughtless or odd gift that doesn’t suit me. He rarely gives me a compliment or expresses appreciation for things I do for him and the kids. I’ve let him know year after year that his thoughtlessness hurts my feelings, but he never changes.
Now I’m starting to worry that I’m setting a bad example for our three daughters and that they’ll end up marrying someone who’s just like him and have their feelings hurt over and over again.
I’ve actually considered divorce because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone who is so thoughtless. Maybe there is someone else out there who will make me feel special a few times a year. Am I being selfish? Am I too hung up on getting a gift? — Hurt Feelings Again
Dear Hurt Feelings: I don’t think gifts on special days would probably matter so much if you felt valued and appreciated the rest of the time, but I do think it is important — and useful — for you to purposefully look for positive ways your husband might be communicating his appreciation for and feelings about you, outside of gift-giving. Also look at how you express your appreciation toward him.
Before giving up on him — and your relationship — you two should commit to a few sessions with a skilled and neutral marriage coach or counselor, who could at least help you to communicate.
Dear Amy: One additional piece of advice for “Wife Needing Advice,” the woman whose husband likes porn taken from hidden cameras: She should make sure he hasn’t been filming her. She needs to leave! — No Name
Dear No Name: This sort of hidden camera “voyeur” pornography is disgusting. You make a great point. I agree.
You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: email@example.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.