Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ask Kelli: Slighted Sibling; Tempted Shopper; Dyed Disaster

by Kelli Miller

Dear Kelli, 

My parents, who live across the country, recently bought a home in the Northeast to retire to in the next five or so years. This house is only a couple of hours away from my sister (this was by design), but about eight hours away from me. My parents will spend a few weeks there at a time during their semi-retirement phase. I can't help but be resentful when they all get together for long weekends, the Fourth of July, etc., and I just can't get off work or otherwise can't drive the eight hours. There are no nearby airports.
We were always a close family, but I can barely bring myself to speak to any of them anymore over this issue. Part of me feels petty, like I'm keeping score. But the other part of me just can't understand why they specifically set out to be close to my sister and made no apparent consideration to be close to me. She has kids and I don't -- yet. I suspect this may be their primary motivation in being close to her. But the whole thing just makes me really mad, and even if I raised the issue with them and I don't know that anything could be done at this point. 

Sibling Rival

Dear Sibling Rival,

I can certainly understand why you feel hurt and angry. You want to spend holidays with your parents and the drive is often too far for you, but not for your sister. I believe any sibling close to their parents would feel jealous of their sibling as well.

My hunch as to why they chose an area closer to your sister is the same as yours: Your sister has kids. But instead of deducing, why not know the real answer for sure? I suggest having a heart-to-heart talk with your parents. In more of the spirit of curiosity and in a tone without judgment ask them what factored into their decision of choosing the area they bought the house. Maybe there are other important factors you hadn’t thought about: nice community, good weather, etc?

Then after hearing them out, you could explain that you know they didn’t intentionally mean to hurt you, but you couldn't help but feel hurt by their decision to move close to your sister. What if they have no clue that you're upset? Or thought you’d be okay with the decision? They need to realize how you’re feeling now and you need to be mature enough to tell them. You’re right to conclude that there may well be no change in their physical location, but it can certainly change your emotional relationship from this point on.

Yes, you’re mad and I get it. But this all boils down to love. You love your parents and you want to see them more. So instead of holding a grudge and being angry, why not set up weekend trips once every few months to see them? Eight hours is far, so perhaps you could find a halfway point for your visits? I’m thinking that if they know you’re upset they will put more effort into seeing you.

All the best,



Hi Kelli,

I cannot keep a promise to myself: for example, not to go and do some spontaneous shopping. Just as I have paid off my credit card balance, I will go out and build it up again. I buy things and then feel terrible as I often overspend my budget. The problem is not how to stop being a shopaholic; I admit I am, but how to keep the promise to myself and be disciplined and consistent in what I promise myself to do or not to do. I feel really bad -- and do not want to.


Unfaithful Promiser

Dear Unfaithful Promiser,

As much as this seems about your ability or lack of ability to hold a promise to yourself, I believe it’s more about your feelings and your anxiety level. What happens is that you become anxious (or angry, upset, lonely, sad, etc.) and you don’t know how to deal with those uncomfortable feelings. So instead of working through those feelings, you do what feels easier: shop. You are essentially escaping your feelings.

So I’d encourage you to look deeper into what is going on with you. Perhaps you can keep a log as to when you are most likely to shop. Is it after a fight with someone? Or on the days when you feel lonely? I have a feeling you’ll see a connection.

Once you have the awareness that certain feelings equate to your shopping sprees, it will be easier to establish healthier ways of dealing with these uncomfortable feelings. Some great ideas for handling your feelings include keeping a journal, calling a friend, exercising, taking a bath, etc.

If none of this is resonating with you, perhaps it’s just a matter of finding the right incentive. You’re trying to keep a promise to yourself but you’re breaking it because the reward is not motivation enough. So tell yourself if you don’t shop today/this week/this month, you can go to the movies or get a massage (or whatever incentive moves you).

All the best,



Dear Kelli,

I had never before dyed my own hair but I wanted to save money so I did it two days ago. What a wreck! I dyed it way too dark. I look hideous and I don’t even want to go out. I called my normal hair colorist and she’s booked for two weeks! What can I do in the meantime aside from hibernate?


Want to DIE

Dear Want to DIE,

I’m sorry about what happened. I’ve been in that situation before and it’s very difficult. But here are a few strategies that helped me:

1) Wash your hair often and try a chlorine removal shampoo or clarifying shampoo, which washes deeper than normal shampoo.

2) Go English and invest in some neat hats. Who says you can’t be stylish even when you feel hideous?

3) Go to Sephora and pick up some hair color pens. Perhaps you could just draw a few highlights in the strands around your face so that the contrast is not so stark?

4) Call your colorist one more time and ask to be notified if there are any cancellations. (I wouldn’t go anywhere else at this point if you trust your current colorist).

Good luck. And remember, it’s only two weeks away!

All the best,


Kelli Miller, MSW is a therapist, author, and radio personality. Miller was a featured expert for SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 198, the co-host for the TV show Love and Money: The Advice Show, and the advice columnist for Playboy U, and the author of Professor Kelli’s Guide to Finding a Husband. Ask Kelli is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv on Wednesdays.

Kelli welcomes your comments below.  Have a question? You can write to Kelli at advice (at) fastmail (dot) net or via Twitter @askkelli.Your name and email address will be kept confidential.

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