Dear Annie: I’ve been married for 17 years and have four children. My husband has four much younger brothers, all married. Nine months ago, two of them had a falling out after a night of drinking and fighting. One ordered us to choose between them, and when we refused, they cut off all ties.

The problem is that this brother-in-law and his wife were closely involved in my children’s lives, coming to birthday parties, holiday meals and having the kids for sleepovers. My brother-in-law in particular developed a bond with my only son, who became quite attached to him.

This is the second time this couple has rejected my children because they are angry with us. The first time it happened, I forgave them and let them resume the relationship, but this time I’m not so sure I should. I worry it is damaging to my children to have these relatives in and out of their lives.

Am I out of line stating that there will be no reconciliation, and to refuse any future relationship? I do not foresee them trying to be friendly again, but my mother-in-law hopes for an eventual reunion. My husband and I are in agreement that they will not be allowed around our children again. Am I wrong? — Totally Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: Not wrong, but perhaps not the best approach, either. You cannot protect your children from every bad relationship they are going to encounter, and it’s good to teach them how to adjust to people who are unreliable. Not all relatives need to be close. Treat these in-laws as you would family members who live out of state and rarely visit. Be friendly, but from a distance. Include them in family events, but don’t encourage your children to spend extra time with them. Even a bad experience is an opportunity to learn.

Dear Annie: I am 50 and have been divorced for 13 years. My previous two spouses were abusive and unfaithful, but I am now happily engaged to a great guy. Friends and relatives are delighted for us, and we are planning on having a small chapel service.


The issue is my brother’s disparaging comments about having a ceremony for a “third wedding.” How do I respond to that?– Wedding Planner in Wisconsin

Dear Wisconsin: Invite your brother to the ceremony, and if he objects, he won’t attend. Ignore his remarks. Everyone who marries is entitled to a ceremony, and a small chapel service sounds perfect for you. Best wishes.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Disgusted in Illinois,” who resents receiving wall calendars, greeting cards and other unnecessary items from organizations that expect her to donate money .

I receive calendars and knick-knacks for the same reason. I suggest she check with local nursing homes, hospitals and women’s and homeless shelters to see if these items could be of use.

I belong to a church auxiliary that visits a nursing home to chat with the residents, and I always save my “gifts” and take them with me. The residents love to play bingo and often use the smaller calendars for that purpose. Wall calendars with pretty pictures are wonderful to brighten up a room. The greeting cards are perfect for those who are unable to get to a store to shop for them. — Shirley in New York

Dear Shirley: Thank you for the wonderful suggestions. We hope our readers will follow your example.

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