Ask Amy

Dear Amy: For all who don’t know my aunt well, she is a lov­ing, sweet and car­ing per­son with a great per­son­al­ity.

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Amy Dick­in­son

Un­for­tu­nately, for her fam­ily mem­bers, we all know her true dark, psy­chotic and twisted side and have been sub­ject to her abu­sive men­tal tor­ture.

Her daugh­ter is just like her, so as we moved into adult­hood many fam­ily func­tions were full of dis­plays of their sub­lim­i­nal abuse, which may ap­pear harm­less to oth­ers, but is ac­tu­ally quite up­set­ting to the ones who know their true in­ten­tions (side glances, mut­ter­ings un­der breath, quiet tantrums, and “in­no­cent” com­ments dis­guised as “con­cern” to other rel­a­tives to gar­ner their sym­pa­thy). They are like the evil step­sis­ters in “Cin­derella,” who gang up on oth­ers and then act in­no­cent and try to gaslight you into think­ing you mis­in­ter­preted their in­ten­tions.

Af­ter the birth of her first child, my sis­ter de­cided to cut them out of her life af­ter one such scene at a party. My other sis­ter fol­lowed suit, and they were no longer part of any hol­i­days, birth­day par­ties, etc.

We oc­ca­sion­ally see them at other gath­er­ings we aren’t a part of ar­rang­ing, but my sis­ters usu­ally opt out of those be­cause they don’t want to deal with her. I think that’s overkill, but fully sup­port my sis­ters and keep a sur­face-level re­la­tion­ship with my aunt to keep the peace on both sides. But yet again, while I was also a vic­tim of her cru­elty, I am stronger than my sis­ters and have bet­ter cop­ing skills.

Amy, do you think this is bullying for me to es­sen­tially “ghost” my aunt? I per­son­ally think this gives fuel to her fire of play­ing the vic­tim and gar­ner­ing sym­pa­thy, but my sis­ters don’t han­dle con­fronta­tion well. Some­times you just have to walk away. Do you think this was the right path to take? What else can we do? Is it bullying to cut out the bully? — Not a Bully

Dear Not a Bully: Avoid­ing a bully is not bullying, it is a “fight or flight” sur­vival tech­nique. Any per­son has the right to avoid an­other per­son, and mu­tu­ally avoid­ing a bully doesn’t count as so­cial ex­clu­sion.

You could help to turn down the heat on this by check­ing your own de­scrip­tors of the be­hav­ior: “men­tal tor­ture,” “sub­lim­i­nal abuse,” “quiet tantrums,” “evil,” and cast­ing your­self and oth­ers as “vic­tims,” etc.

Your aunt’s be­hav­ior sounds slip­pery, in­sid­i­ous, and tough to nail down. She sounds like a jerk. I be­lieve the best re­sponse is to make eye con­tact and be calm, as­sertive, di­rect, and calmly call some­one out — if pos­si­ble. Oth­er­wise, be­hav­ing with con­sis­tent, so­cially po­lite and cool re­gard is a good way to take away the bully’s most pow­er­ful tool: the abil­ity to con­trol some­one through in­tim­i­da­tion.

Dear Amy: Re­cently I had an ar­gu­ment with my daugh­ter-in-law.

The next day I gave her a hug and asked if things were OK. Should I still have to say “I’m sorry?” — Per­plexed

Dear Per­plexed: If you were in the wrong, then yes, you def­i­nitely have to say “I’m sorry.” Even if you weren’t in the wrong, it would still be best to ad­dress the is­sue di­rectly, and ac­knowl­edge that you could or should have be­haved dif­fer­ently.

Wait­ing a day, dis­pens­ing a hug, and ask­ing if things are OK, are all ways of ba­si­cally try­ing to sweep some­thing un­der the rug. This is a nice and fairly be­nign tech­nique, and it is cer­tainly bet­ter than just ig­nor­ing a prob­lem and wait­ing for it to go away. It turns out that prob­lems, es­pe­cially be­tween in-laws, don’t re­ally go away.

There is no sub­sti­tute for a sin­cere and di­rect apol­ogy: “I am so sorry for my part in our ar­gu­ment yes­ter­day. I was sar­cas­tic and out of line, and I sin­cerely apol­o­gize. I re­ally re­gret it, and hope you will for­give me.”

Dear Amy: I’d like to add my voice to those con­cerned by your softball ad­vice to the chil­dren of the 85-year-old al­co­holic mother. They took her car away and she leased an­other. Now they need to call the po­lice. — Con­cerned

Dear Con­cerned: The adult chil­dren didn’t present any ev­i­dence that their mother drove drunk, but — given the cir­cum­stances they de­scribed, it is cer­tainly pos­si­ble. I agree with read­ers who felt my ad­vice was too soft, and thank you all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.