Friday, April 20, 2012

Brother-In-Law Is A Hard Pill To Swallow

Dear Tazi:

My brother-in-law is one of those people who thinks they know everything and has no qualms about expressing their opinion whenever they feel like it. There is no such thing as a private conversation when you are around "Bill" because he butts into every conversation he happens to overhear, and excuses his behavior by suggesting that those who want privacy discuss matters elsewhere. Tazi, I am not talking about coffee-shop conversations (although he buts in plenty there, too, and always with his uneducated opinions); I am talking about private conversations taking place away from others.

My wife "Ellie" - who is technically of no relation to Bill (Bill is my sister's husband) - was recently diagnosed with cancer. She is handling the diagnosis quite well, all things considered, and was discussing her prognosis (which is very good) with my mother after Easter dinner, while the two of them were in the kitchen doing the dishes. Bill happened to be passing by on his way to the bathroom when he overheard the conversation, and felt the need to share his "uneducated medical opinion"; which included telling my wife that chemotherapy is a waste of time, that it only makes you sicker, and is a scam doctors pull to keep you coming back for treatment. He then went into a long spiel about how a special diet high in antioxidants could cure her cancer "the natural way, the way God intended". Things went downhill from there, with Bill cornering Ellie for almost half an hour and not allowing her to get a word in, edgewise. My mother has always been on the meek side, so she had no idea how to tell Bill to stop. I had been outside with the children during this time, preparing for our annual egg hunt; otherwise, I would have come to my wife's side.

Ellie was very upset by Bill's verbal attack, but managed to pull herself together for the remainder of the day; I, on the other hand, was livid and would have told Bill off if it were not such a special day for my family. This is not the first time Bill has pulled such inappropriate behavior, but I would like it to be the last. I am considering writing a letter to Bill and my sister to let them know how angry I am over his treatment of my wife; but Ellie says to just let it go - that Bill is never going to change and to rock the boat would only damage family relations. I wish I could be so forgiving, Tazi, but someone has to stand up to Bill and I would like the satisfaction of being the one to put this guy in his place.

Ellie and I have agreed to abide by your opinion, Tazi. Do you think I should write that letter to Bill?

Itchy Trigger Finger

Dear Itchy Trigger Finger:

Your brother-in-law sounds like a real jerk. The sad part is, he probably thinks he is a likable guy and is doing people a favor by sharing his opinions and "uneducated medical" advice with them. Because of this, any attempt to correct him will fail miserably and, as your wife said, damage family relations. I am going to suggest you write that letter to Bill anyway. Just don't send it.

When we take the time to vent our feelings in a letter, we also pour out the negative emotions that are pent up inside of us. Just the act of writing a letter to Bill, telling him off in ways you have so far only dreamed of, will lift the burden of anger that is weighing on you. I fully understand your desire to tell Bill where to go, and I believe this desire sprouts from the instinct you feel to protect your wife, especially now that she is ill. I suggest you indulge that desire by protecting her in ways that she actually needs protecting, like being there for her emotionally and allowing her to break down when she needs to let go; and making yourself available to her when she needs assistance around the house. The purpose of this is several-fold: not only will you be "protecting" your wife and fulfilling your role as a supportive spouse, but you will be quietly showing Bill (and others who may be watching) the correct way to be helpful when someone is going through illness.

In time, your wife will recover - in spite of Bill's dire (but uneducated) prognosis, and he will be the one with egg on his face, instead of in his Easter basket. As much as I feel for you and your wife, the person I feel for the most is your sister - after all, she is the one stuck living with Bill.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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