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Dysfunctional family resents stable brother


Dear Abby: My two siblings and I were raised by an abusive, alcoholic father. Predictably, it has adversely affected our mental health. One sibling struggles with alcoholism and substance abuse. The other has a personality disorder and cannot maintain stable relationships. I cope with comparatively fewer severe issues, but I still must work hard to sustain a marriage and my career and raise healthy children. It isn’t easy.

My siblings’ issues have disrupted my emotional health and family life, which is why I keep them at a distance. Lately, they have expressed feeling abandoned. Other family members call me selfish and say I’m obligated to help them because I’m “the successful one.” I do feel some guilt for not helping more, as we all survived the same toxic childhood. Yet, my emotional bandwidth is limited. Frankly, people with alcoholism and personality disorders are hard to be around, even if they are family. Is it selfish to prioritize my well-being by maintaining distance from my siblings? — Their Brother

Dear Brother: Your first priority must be your emotional health. Next should be the well-being of your spouse and children and the career that enables you to provide for them. If maintaining some distance from these siblings is selfish, then call it “enlightened” selfishness. Help them to the extent you can, but do not allow yourself to be emotionally arm-twisted by other relatives who remain on the sidelines.

Dear Abby: I’ve lived in my apartment for almost 10 years and had the same downstairs neighbor since I moved in. About three years ago, I began noticing an odor coming from her apartment. It’s hard to describe other than the worst body odor imaginable. It’s so bad that I can’t open my sliding door or windows in the summer because the smell drifts into my home. She is not the type of person I can approach about this no matter how gently I word it. I’m to the point where I feel I should file a complaint with management. It could be a hoarding situation, which could lead to health issues or pests. There are only four units in my building, and I know my other two neighbors would never complain. It would be obvious it was me, which would make for a very uncomfortable living situation. So far, no one else I know has had advice, so I am desperate for any suggestions. — Disgusted in Oregon

Dear Disgusted: Have you spoken to your other neighbors about this? Have they noticed the odor, too? If any of them tells you yes, then absolutely discuss what has been happening, and for how long, with the building management company. There may, indeed, be health and safety issues involved. (Could she have a dead animal in there?) Please do not remain silent. For everyone’s sake, this should be checked out.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at


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