Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My brother-in-law of 20 years has all the symptoms of workaholism. Despite my sister’s pleas for him to be more available to her, he continues to spend 14-hour days at the office, seven days a week. He’s in denial, and my sister seems to finally have had enough.
She’s starting to pull away — losing her extra weight, dressing sexy, going out with friends for drinks, and flirting with guys at work.
I love both of them very much and want them to be happy together. Is there anything a concerned older sister can do to get them to seek professional help?
No, because: (1) Unless you’re summoned, it’s not your place to get involved; (2) You have an agenda, apparently. You want them to be happy together. To be a good helper in any situation, I think you need to bring no other allegiance except to the best outcome for those directly involved.
That said, if your agenda is out in the open, then you do get one chance to butt in: “I can see you pulling away, and for my own selfish reasons I hope you’ll get into marriage counseling before there’s no going back.” This goes down a lot better with a chaser: “It’s your life and I just want you to be happy, so I’ll shut up now and stay out of it.”