Ask Amy

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 12:00am

DEAR AMY: I've been married to my wife for 14 years. My brother-in-law has never been friendly toward me. Until recently, I just brushed off his sometimes anti-social behavior, but his actions have taken a turn toward the scary.

After he made a series of insulting comments of a political nature on my Facebook page, I decided that I had had enough and simply removed him from my "friends" list.

This pushed him over the edge. He started sending vicious e-mail messages, accusing me of censoring him.

In spite of my explanations, he completely fails to understand that it was not the political aspect of the message that I objected to, but the insulting tone.

In his e-mails he seems very angry.

Now he has started a blog devoted to making snarky comments about me.

I am a former elected official in town, and his blog is devoted to taking portions of my statements out of context and ridiculing them.

Even though my brother-in-law has admitted to me that he is responsible for this blog, he publishes it under a pseudonym to create the illusion that these comments are from an "ordinary concerned citizen."

My wife says I should ignore him, but I can't imagine ever being to a point where I would want to be in the same room with him again. My wife has spoken with him about this, but he shows no sign of backing down.

What should I do?

— At a Loss

DEAR LOSS: Do nothing. Don't respond to your brother-in-law's e-mails and don't react to his blog. Don't even read it.

Ignoring e-mail won't necessarily make your correspondent stop sending it, but it leaves him wondering if you have received it, and that's as good as you can do.

Save these e-mail messages in a file, in case you need to refer to them later.

Your brother-in-law sounds erratic. There is every chance that you aren't his only target.

If any of this scurrilous material comes back to haunt you through other sources, you can explain that it was written by a disgruntled in-law. Otherwise, make no comment.


DEAR AMY: I own a business, and my father works with me. Actually, my dad works for me.

It seems to me that he always has a problem with someone at the workplace. He has a habit of trash-talking about co-workers when they aren't even there.

But now he's talking about my wife, whom he dislikes for no good reason.

He's a huge help with the business, but his help comes with too much drama.

What should I do?

I'm between a rock and a hard place.

— Reader in New Jersey

DEAR READER: Actually, you're not between a rock and a hard place.

Your father is.

I can imagine how challenging this might be, but you have a duty to your other workers and to your business as a whole to maintain a professional atmosphere.

You also have a duty to your wife to stand up for her against personal attacks.

You should have a private word with your father.

Say, "Dad, you are valuable to me, but I'd like you to stop being so negative here at work. If you have a problem I can help with, let me know, but otherwise I'll tell you the same thing I'd tell any of our co-workers: that we need to keep things positive and professional."


DEAR AMY: You asked for feedback about using anonymous online services to deliver an awkward message.

Whether it is appropriate depends on the nature of the message to be delivered.

"I think you were mean to Mary" or "You owe me an apology" should be delivered in person.

"Your pants are so tight that the outline of your underwear is visible every day" or, "The CEO is aware of your sexual relationship in the office" might be less humiliating to receive anonymously.

— A Reader

DEAR READER: Most readers agree with you that some messages are best received anonymously.

Send questions to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles