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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 17 October, 2018
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Dear Fifi: I hate my sister's new fella

Dearest, darling Foofers.

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More mawkish auto-fiction about my feelings? Is that what I just heard you screaming out for? Well, you’re in luck. I live to please

If you’d like to send me some back, you can confess it all to me at this link anonymously and confidentially. I read every single one, but please be aware I can’t reply to people individually or enter personal correspondence. But I do care and hopefully even writing things out helps somewhat.

(As you can see, I find it does. A lot.)

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Dear Fifi,

I can’t stand my sister’s boyfriend. The way he treats my family and our house is disgusting. He will come to our house and pressure my mother to turn off what she’s watching so he can watch the football, acts extremely inappropriately in front of my parents, pulling my sister on his lap kissing her neck – he has no shame. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. When any one else is watching something he bellows over it so you can’t hear a thing.

She’s never acted like this with any of her other boyfriends. I don’t want to control who my sister goes out with as that is her choice (and I don’t want to make my issues with him known to her as I don’t want to damage our relationship) but I cannot hold my anger in about him much longer. This is not his home it’s mine, ours. His comfort should not be prioritised but my parents don’t wish to upset him as his parents are passed away. I want to know how I can get him or her to see they have to start respecting our home and the people in it.

I wrote about this before in relation to a workplace situation, but I think a lot of the same issues are presenting themselves here. It boils down to something very simple: you can’t control how other people behave, but you can control how you react to their behaviour.

Of course, it’s much easier to understand this idea intellectually than it is to put it into practice when someone is annoying or upsetting us. But try and remember that in a fraught or uncomfortable situation, you can’t tell anyone else what to do – but you can influence how you respond. Always remember that if you can.

At the end of the day, this is your parents’ home and it’s up to them if they want him in it or not. It’s their place to put down ground rules or set the tone, not yours. You’re all a family unit under one roof, but fundamentally your parents own the gaff and therefore make the rules. If they’re okay with him, try to follow their example. How do they cope? Ask and take the advice.

At the end of the day, this guy just sounds kind of boorish. He’s dominant with telly, likes PDA and hogs the remote. None of these really amount to mortal sins, when taken apart like that. Is it possible that you’re just absolutely chalk and cheese? Could you be being a little over-sensitive to someone who is naturally a little brash? Be honest with yourself.

Sunny side up? You’ve done the right thing so far. You haven’t risen to him and you haven’t slagged him to your sister. Those were good calls, so keep that up. What you need to do is work on simmering with rage quietly in the background. That doesn’t hurt him – he doesn’t feel it. It hurts you. It makes you tense and ruins your evening. Stop letting him have that affect on you. 

Acknowledge his bullshit – and let it go. Avoid him for a while if you need a break. But start meditating on the idea that this guy isn’t so bad. No one knows… He could be around for a long time and form part of your family. So make the best of it now, when things aren’t set in a certain way. Maybe try to find a shared common interest. Find solace in your parents if you need to blow off steam but try to view this guy as part of the deal and move on with that attitude.

Good luck! Deep breaths. 

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

Last week’s column – I’m waiting for an apology from my ex

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