My sister is in her 50s. She suffers (and has benefited) from autism spectrum disorder. It’s given her brilliance at the expense of social functioning. Sadly, she is not aware of her A.S.D. or formally diagnosed. But she gets furious if anyone challenges her; she is unable to forgive small slights and doesn’t perceive other people’s intentions correctly. I think she would benefit from understanding her condition, but she brushed off my suggestion that she is on the spectrum. Meanwhile, she is alienating herself from our family with her behavior. I feel like shouting: “You have Asperger’s! Embrace it!” How can we fix this situation?
Oh, Sister, you have come to the wrong advice columnist! Make-believe clinicians who hand out diagnoses like Tic Tacs are dangerous. Unlike you, professionals have been trained to assess A.S.D. And pathologizing your sister based on an amateur understanding of autism not only hurts her, but also people who live with the disorder.
Brilliant-but-difficult does not always mean Asperger’s syndrome. Moody is not a synonym for bipolar. And sadness is not depression. I know it’s become common to offer such analyses (maybe to make ourselves feel superior?), but they trivialize the disorders and perpetuate the stigma of them. Please knock it off!
Now, even though we got off on the wrong foot, I’m still sorry you’re having trouble with your sister. It sounds as if the problem is mutual, and she may not be open to therapy now (though you can certainly suggest it).
Or try this instead: Tell her you’d like to get along better and propose a quiet meal during which you tell each other, gently, when you begin to feel hurt or annoyed by the other — and why. If you can both be patient and lay aside defensiveness for an hour, it may be a great start.
“Just Joking”? Sure You Were
My husband and I have an infant and a toddler. When we go to parties with the kids, he’s occasionally offered alcohol. He always looks to me before accepting. I take this as him being thoughtful: making sure I’m O.K. with being the primary caretaker and designated driver. But other men rib him about needing to get permission or me “wearing the pants.” When I try to explain my husband’s thoughtfulness, the response is always: “Jeez, I was just joking.” Is there a better way to handle this?
Jokes are tricky, as our old friend Freud pointed out. They let us express provocative ideas we’d probably keep to ourselves in regular conversation, while giving us cover to hide behind them if we’re confronted. That’s what these jokesters are doing.
You may be more successful with them if you skip the sincerity and make your well-observed point with a joke of your own: “So, you’ll take over diaper duty when he’s too bombed to change them?” Same point, different delivery.
My best friend and I are 28. I am a teacher, and he is a hedge fund guy. So, the difference in our lifestyles is pretty extreme. Recently, I adopted a rescue mutt and have been taking her to obedience classes at the local shelter. Shortly after that, my friend bought an expensive purebred and — even more annoyingly — sent it away to training camp for two weeks so he could have (as he called it) a “turnkey dog.” This situation pisses me off. What should I do?
You probably can’t convince your friend to stop earning (and spending) buckets of cash. So, I see two options here. The first is to enroll in business school immediately, then work nonstop at a grueling finance job so you can afford a turnkey puppy of your own.
Or, recognize that you and your pal made different choices that have led to different lives. (We can’t do much about salaries that are askew.) Still, you can focus on the deeper connection that made you best friends in the first place, or let the relationship fade. I hope you’ll try to save it, though. Best friends don’t come around every day.
Which One of These Is the Real Wedding?
My friend is having an extravagant wedding in Italy next year. In addition, she recently had a local party for people who are not invited to the ceremony. I was invited to the wedding. But I saw that several people who were invited to the wedding were also at the party. (I wasn’t!) To make matters worse, the bride was a bridesmaid at my small wedding two months ago. Do I ask why I was left off the guest list?
No! Being invited to a party is not a right or something you earn by inviting people to yours. And scrutinizing the guest lists of other people’s parties (with that sense of entitlement) is a surefire way to make yourself miserable.
True, general reciprocity is healthy for friendships. But you’re invited to the main event: the Italian nuptials! Don’t be petty about satellite dos. Maybe the people who were invited to both the wedding and the party can’t make it to Italy. Or maybe the bride just likes them better. (Kidding!)
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.