Dear Vicki

Fifth Wheel?

When my husband and I make our annual trip to our old hometown, our time is very limited. After we see our relatives, we have little opportunity for socializing. However, we do get together at a favorite restaurant with three of my old high school friends and their husbands. This year, one husband had passed away. We’ve invited our friend, his widow, to join us, as always. She is upset that we are not having a “ladies only” dinner in deference to her loss. We’ve been close for so long and our husbands enjoy seeing each other too.  How do I handle this awkward situation?

As a new widow, your friend is probably reeling from all of the sudden changes in her life. In this case, it sounds as if she is thinking only of her own feelings and may be afraid of being seen as a fifth wheel. Try to reassure her that she is important to you even though she is no longer half of a couple. If she still demurs, simply tell her that she will be missed, as well as her deceased spouse, and make your plans for dinner with the others.

If the loss is very recent, your friend may not be up to socializing in a group quite yet. If you can fit it in, try to arrange a time to meet for coffee or lunch, either with the other ladies or just one-on-one. The important thing to do is to still reach out and try to include her in your get-togethers. However, just because of her sensitivity, it’s not your responsibility to change a long-standing tradition that everyone else enjoys. Part of the adjustment to widowhood is coming to terms with being able to participate in social situations as a single. Be gentle, encouraging and understanding, but continue with your plans as you wish.

Personality Disorder

We have a relative who is creating havoc in our family. She spends most of her time making trouble by manipulating, gossiping, lying and pitting one person against another. One of my friends says that it sounds like she has a personality disorder. Can that be treated and, if so, how?

By definition, a personality disorder is a long-standing and inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior that causes serious problems in personal, social and occupational situations for those so afflicted. In addition, these behavioral patterns frequently have a negative impact on the quality of life of family members and friends, as you have indicated.

A number of different personality disorders are categorized by symptoms according to guidelines published by the American Psychological Association. While there is treatment available, it is often not sought out by sufferers until they encounter a situation of increased stress or social demands. Success of treatment depends upon many factors, including the type of personality disorder, its severity and the internal and external resources of the patient.

Family members, friends and colleagues who are affected by these issues need to have firm personal boundaries and communicate well with each other. Whether or not your relative has a diagnosable personality disorder, it’s clear that she is causing significant stress to those around her and you’ll all benefit by learning some tools for dealing with difficult people. Continue to educate yourself about personality disorders and consider consulting with a therapist to get specific guidelines and suggestions. You may find other helpful information at this website  Another resource to check out is the book, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward.












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