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Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have been together for 10 years and married for seven. I am very passionate about politics and current events, even more so after the past few years.

My brother-in-law, Brad is silent on these topics. A few times I asked my husband what he thought and he just said Brad wasn’t very political.


I volunteer for a local chapter of a national organization that aligns with my values. Last week I saw a donor list and Brad donated a substantial sum (unusual surname). I came home and asked my husband about it. I was surprised Brad has this kind of money to donate. Im also surprised somebody who isnt very political would use their money this way. My husband did not seem surprised at all and just said that I saw the donor list as a volunteer and I shouldnt bring it into the family.

I cannot shake the feeling that all of this, from Brad not being political to my husband knowing he made the donation, is really weird. Do you have any insights?


In-Law: I dont know, but I have opinions. So many opinions.

I think Brad is a private person. Even if he isnt one in general, non-private people often choose to be private about their politics and personal wealth. (Or maybe I just wish they did.)

I dont think being private about something is weird when its entirely ones own business and it costs no one anything not to know.

I do think being private about something can be odd, even difficult, when someone else in the family is public and outspoken about the same thing but its nothing beyond the reach of a little finesse.

A little finesse might be the very definition of your husbands remark that Brad wasnt very political because while its clearly not true in the old-fashioned sense (i.e., where we agree there is a reality to be known and proven), its true enough in the sense that Brad is not going to exist as a political person around you. Which is his prerogative. For all we know Brad is private about his politics around your husband as well.

But I suspect this is more likely the case: The brothers have opted not to stand in your way but also not join you in openly demonstrating political passion.

I think there is nothing wrong with this. There are many ways to be on board. And there are many reasons to be discreet, including, for example, other family members. Maybe some back the other side and are highly reactive as well.

But if you are picking up signals that the brothers arent on board with your methods, and/or Brad has opted for privacy because he specifically doesnt want to engage on this with you, then respect your instincts. Not that you need to change what youre doing to fall in line with everyone (or anyone) else, but you do want to be mindful if there are marital or family consequences to what youre doing. Freedom is the opportunity to make informed choices. Because this part of the scenario is about feelings, your gut is a valid source. You could also ask your husband.

If there is a chance that what you call passionate is what theyd call strident, then a little reflection couldnt hurt. Rarely does. Even if you dont change a thing.

I think the most valid item in this entire scenario is your husbands caution that you have proprietary info, meaning it is not for public debate or prying. Imagine if all our boundaries were so clear.

Finally, I think in This Political Climate it is a minor miracle that Brads furtive activism is in support of your cause. Whatever energy youre plowing into your Whats with Brad? inquiry could go into a discreet reservoir of joy.

All of that being said: Okay, this level of privacy about an area of apparent agreement has some low-key weird to it. But not enough to give it any more thought unless things get plainly weirder at which point you keep minding your own business anyway.

Just my 22 cents.

Dear Carolyn: Morally corrupt sister-in-law has no boundaries. I want little to do with her, but my partner keeps pushing to interact more. How do I deal with this?


Anonymous: By recognizing your partner is the problem.

A partner with boundaries would accept your decision to have little to do with someone, especially when you have good reason but even when you dont. Because its your life and your time. A partner with boundaries would not keep pushing anything on someone else.

So, thats the main issue to the secondary issue of the no-boundaries sister-in-law: Your partner learned, presumably at the same parental knee, at least some of the no-boundaries playbook.

Ideally your partner would explore this in therapy which you could (theme alert!) suggest but not keep pushing. But you can deal with this solo, as always, by calmly holding your line through whatever fallout you must.