Out-of-town wedding puts sister in quandary

Dear Annie: My husband and I married six years ago. The year before, my parents faced financial ruin and the loss of their home. I took it upon myself to cover their legal costs (about $12,000) and managed to save their house from seizure. In recognition of this, my brother, “Owen,” generously contributed $2,500 toward the cost of our wedding.

Now it’s Owen’s turn to get married. The wedding will be at a fancy private club 4,000 miles away. My husband and I have a toddler and a newborn. I stay home to care for them, which has cut down on our income. Nevertheless, we have purchased the plane tickets and made the necessary hotel and baby-sitting arrangements.

Now Owen has asked my husband to contribute to their wedding by paying for a luncheon after the rehearsal, with the costs to be split between my other brother and me. (This brother is also traveling at great expense.)

Annie, when I married, we had no money for our rehearsal dinner, so we invited everyone over for a casual barbecue in our back yard. I suspect that this is not good enough for Owen’s fianc e and that she is pressuring him. However, I can’t help but feel that such a demand is pushy and tacky. I know Owen feels we owe him, but at the time, he had the money and offered it freely.

I am really uncomfortable with this request. How should I respond? Appalled in Montreal

Dear Montreal: We agree that it’s tacky for Owen to demand this as repayment, but it would be nice if you would offer to do something for him. Tell Owen you simply don’t have the wherewithal for a fancy affair, but you and your brother would be happy to host something more modest or make a reasonable contribution toward the luncheon of his choice. Be sweet about it, but don’t let him pressure you into giving more than you can afford. And if you can afford nothing, be up-front and say so.

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for nine years. It’s my second marriage. We have had several disagreements over my children. He doesn’t like any of them and makes it very difficult for me to have a relationship with them.

Sometimes it seems he’s only staying with me because he took vows. He also has nowhere else to go. Lately he has been so rude that I get the sense he wants me to leave him so he can tell his friends and family it’s all my fault. We hardly talk or spend time together. We are usually in different parts of the house.

I am afraid to say or do anything because he will criticize me for it. I was in love with this man at one point, but now I am just trying to survive. We attempted counseling, but he quit. I really need some help. Losing My Marriage

Dear Losing: Your marriage sounds miserable. If your husband won’t get counseling, please go back to your previous counselor or find another, and go on your own. A counselor will work on the problem, suggest ways that might improve the situation and help you make decisions about what to do next.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Not the Land of Enchantment,” who is depressed living in her new town. In your list of suggestions, I’m surprised you didn’t include contacting the local humanist organization or the nearest Unitarian Church, both of which welcome atheists. I bet she’ll find some friends there. Shelton, Wash.

Dear Shelton: Thank you for the great suggestions. Dozens of readers recommended the Unitarian Church as a place that welcomes atheists. She can find locations through the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations at uua.org. For information on the humanist movement, she can contact New Humanists at humanism.org or the Institute for Humanist Studies at humanists.net.

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