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The Broad View: Email Family Feud



Dear Ladies,

I lent my sister my old laptop while hers was being fixed.  Her husband borrowed it and says that he” accidentally” saw some old emails that my mother and I had exchanged.  Neither of us are big fans of his and we had said some things about him that was very unflattering.  Although he is a  selfish, condescending jerk I still feel awful and now my sister is really upset with us and he is worse then ever.  We’ve apologized and told him that we had changed our opinion of him but he won’t listen and keeps his family away from family functions acting like the wronged man. How do we fix this?

email blunder

Dear Blunder,

You and your brother-in-law deserve one another.  With Freud and many who followed him, including a number of contemporary neuroscientists, I’m a firm believer in the unconscious as one of our most powerful motivators.  It seems likely that a part of you was aching for a chance to blast your condescending brother-in-law and found that chance when loaning your unedited computer.  Your brother-in-law, by the same token, seemed to be itching for a fight with florid family fireworks and he, also, found exactly what he was looking for.  Keep loving contact with your sister and, after time has been allowed to do some healing, invite your sister and her family over and hope that you can then gradually begin to include your mother and other family members in gatherings.  Both you and your brother-in-law need to be more self aware about the ways in which you are prone to act out destructive wishes and feelings.


To E-mail blunder,

Unfortunately I have heard of this at least twice before -nothing is really sacred on the internet. Although feelings have been hurt, the injured parties, unless they’re children, get past it realizing we’re not perfect people ,so won’t use the incident to break a bond. It sounds like your brother-in law just needed an excuse for this separation.

Your best move is to meet with your sister, just the two of you. If this doesn’t happen, how about meeting with your mother or a neutral member of your family? You or someone else should explain the following;

-A.-you loaned her a laptop when she needed it.

– B-an E-mail is like a personal letter and it is surprising that anyone would open it and then talk about it.

By not attending family functions, not only does she hurt other family members but her own as well. You can ask her if there is anything else you can do since you’ve apologized, but if she wants to hold a grudge you can do no more.  As the bumper sticker says “stuff happens”.


Maryanne is a 45-year Huntington resident with lots of grown children and more grandchildren than she can count on her fingers and toes (no, she isn’t missing any digits). She’s third generation Irish, raised in Brooklyn and a big fan of chocolate, Halloween and Subarus.

Vera has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years and drives a Subaru. She’s an out-of-towner with Huntington relatives. She lives in the mountains is a mother and grandmother, . Vera asked us to remind our readers that every situation is unique and complicated; explore your situation in detail with your psychotherapist and/or your physician.

If you have a question you’d like us to pose to Maryanne & Vera please send us a note with “Broad View Question” in the subject line to

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