The stress of family get togethers

The Daily Circuit live chat for April 18

  • Carolyn Hax. Ready to take your questions.

  • Carolyn Hax's general theory: Protect your children, give them what they need to thrive and then release them into the world.
  • Hax thinks that people often write in to her just to hear their bias confirmed.
  • Inside the advice world: Hax says that people shop their letters to different advice columnists.
  • The best advice I've heard is to separate yourself from conflict, to take a deep breath and realize not everyone has had the same experiences as you. Realizing this stops a lot of arguments before they even start.
  • My husband's parents have been negative about our marriage from the start, they have pretty much cut out communication from him and have worked very hard in trying to make themselves look like the victim.

    He loves his parents and is very hurt by how they are treating him. We want to reach out to them but have no idea what to say, what should we do?
    by Holly edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:25:58 PM
  • I just got a new job at a very progressive, liberal organization.

    My parents are extremely conservative, and when I told them I got a new job they were very excited about it until I told them where it was.

    They are now very negative about it and are not hiding their disapproval. I struggle with how to stand up for myself and tell them they don't have to approve, while also not making it a big subject that will drive a wedge between us. We are a very loving family and usually keep political opinions to ourselves. But now my job will be a source of contention as well...
    by Milly edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:26:46 PM
  • My family is extremely dysfunctional.

    My brother leaches off of my mom, who is on SSDI, and if she can't help him one month I inevitably have to help. It frustrates me because I'm trying to move, but can't afford to and must still live with my mom.

    I'm trying to try the tough love thing and refusing to help, but then I feel guilty because he has a son who doesn't deserve to go without.
    by Anonymous edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:28:22 PM
  • I'm a stepmom, and the best advice I have ever received is, "The ex is predisposed to not like you. Your efforts to communicate with her before she is ready will only fan the flames. Step back and let your husband communicate with the ex-wife."
  • Any advice on how to deal with an Evangelical family when you're a gay atheist man?

    I'm currently single, but have a LOT of anxiety about the prospect of dealing with my family if and when that status ever changes. I'm the eldest and my younger sister is married and had a big wedding with a lot of excitement, but they have made it clear that there would never be that kind of celebration for me. Thoughts?
    by David Philip Norris edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:31:10 PM
  • I am a big fan of Carolyn's, for her directness and thoughtful commentaries.

    One of the things that amazes me is how often people write to her a story of how upset they are with another's actions, and they are asking for a solution -- but they have not yet actually approached the person to talk about it.

    Fear of conflict and passive-aggressiveness is so rampant -- I sometimes find myself screaming at the paper: "Why haven't you just TALKED to them?!"
    by Kris edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:31:47 PM
  • @Holly Hax says one choice is for you to let it go. Seek family in people who are willing to open their hearts to you. It is excruciating but you can find happiness eventually.
  • Best advice I ever got was from my father-in-law. "Listen to everyone and do whatever the hell you want."

    I have used that more than once. My parents have always disliked my husband. I have developed a family that does not include them, my chosen family not my birth family
    by Lora edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:34:11 PM
  • My sisters and I discovered that our mother is having an affair.

    My mother doesn't know that we know about this. My parents have been married for 28 years and my sisters don't want to say anything to my mother because they're worried it will lead to a divorce. I would like to talk to my mother about it, but I'm not sure that it's any of my business.
    by Sarah edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:35:35 PM
  • I think a lot of family drama is created because parents evolve poorly -- they are supposed spend years making all the decisions for their children, then (ideally) years giving strong advice, and eventually letting go of control. But it is easy to forgot those changing roles.
  • I have a mother in law who will not respect when we say no.

    I would like to have a civil conversation with her but they often end w/ her playing the martyr and becoming IMO and my husbands very irrational.

    How do you recommend going forth communicating and how do I help my normally very adept communicator from shutting down when it comes to his mom?
    by Kristina Mattson edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:38:28 PM
  • @Stephanie Curtis, MPR News Thank you so much for taking out question, it has been very rough through this ordeal. It does help to know that we are not the only ones who are going through this. We will take your advice even though it will be rough especially for my husband. I am so sad it has come to this I was hoping so much that his parents would stop seeing we got married to spite of them and just see that we love each other with all our hearts. Again thank you, you have helped alot.
  • My wife and I are in business with my father and his young wife. Since we have come into the business, it has tripled, and the business seems to be doing very well, but the new wife is very jealous of us, and has made him choose between us.

    We are not invited to his house and she actively tries to make the business side of the relationship very difficult. We are intertwined in business and family, and now we are considering leaving the business. It is such a disappointment to us. What do you do when it's not just family, it's business too?
    by Walter edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:42:30 PM
  • Help! After 30 years of marriage and several kids we find out my husband has another daughter he gave up for adoption. Our kids are angry and not accepting her, causing a rift with their dad.

    I am accepting of the person but one of our kids especially is angry and will not discuss it. This is causing negative relationships. My husband thinks our kids should support him and accept her. He never mentioned a word of her so this was a huge mind blower. What to do??
    by Anonymous edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:42:44 PM
  • I laminated Carolyn's answer about unsolicited advice and I carry it in my wallet. I haven't had the chance to whip it out yet, but I will. Oh... I will.
  • Thank you for reminding people that they don't have to tolerate abusive behavior from anyone, even if it is "Family".

    After a lifetime of abuse and neglect from an emotional vampire of a mother and vindictive and co-dependent sisters (plus the alcoholic sister and sex-addicted brother) I finally began trying to save myself from the familiar patterns for the sake of my daughter.

    I joined a support group, I tried to enforce boundaries with my family, to no avail. The final boundary had to be no contact with my family of origin for my emotional health sake and the sake of my daughter. Still, there is shame and guilt for the choice of no-contact. Yet I know I cannot change these people or their harmfull behavior. I can only control how I let it affect me and my daughter. When I hear people complain about their families and then "work it out", I feel really isolated. I'm starting to see in society at large that there are people who would benefit from severing family of origin ties as I have done. Sometimes familiar patterns will always be there, and people will not change.
    by The good daughter edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:44:00 PM
  • My family's way of dealing with conflict is to not deal with it. My mother and sister act as if nothing is wrong and will not apologize for anything despite direct discussions. How can I facilitate communication here?
  • The name of Carolyn's Column is "Tell Me About It", not "Dear Carolyn". She's so much more modern than Abby!
  • Best advice: "The way she handles it now is the way she will always handle it."

    This advice was given to me after a fight with my then girlfriend-- our first. I felt that she'd been manipulative, mean, and unfair during the fight. And, as my friend predicted, that set the tone for every subsequent argument.
    by David edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:45:34 PM
  • I had been spending alot of time with my father in the hospital mere days before his death. My father asked me why I was spending so much time at the hospital with him and not at home with my family. And I responded that family is number one. He advised me that "your wife is number One" it changed forever how I view my family and wife.
  • @David: That's excellent advice!
  • Dana's advice: Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said right now? Does this need to said by me?
  • The best advice I ever got was to include my Mother in Law in the wedding planning!

    We had an akward relationship for 6 years before I married her only son. I brought her to every appointment, and even asked her how to do my hair!It brought us so much closer together and I think made me marrying her son a very happy day instead of a day where she could have felt some sadness.
    by Abby edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:48:24 PM
  • What do you recommend for a mother of 4 kids, ages 8-12, who lately have been out of control with each other and us, disrespectful, and refusing to help around the house? Am so fed up!!
  • My adult daughter has defamed my character and severed my relationship with my parents and siblings.

    She lies to gain sympathy as well as money. She is a drug user. I choose not to talk to her because I think she believes the lies that she has told over the years.

    It is a horrible situation. When is it OK to take a step back from your kid because she has almost killed me through stress and makes me feel like a rotten person when I am not. The only people who don't like me are the ones she turned against me.
    by tabatha edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:49:21 PM
  • Wow, parents are always the bad guys?

    What about those of us whose adult children have chosen to contact us ONLY when they need money or help with babysitting or taking kids to soccer, etc.? It does happen, you know. I have made it clear that I am here and long to spend time with the grandchildren--on their terms--but have come to the conclusion that my life will just have to go on with this gap in my life. My other kids and their kids, along with a lot of friends the age of my kids, don't seem to have a problem with me and my home, so I just go forward, loving them and being there when they do make contact. I just want to put a word in that not all us parents are necessarily the "bad guys" who have to be dealt.
    by hl edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:50:07 PM
  • My husband's sister despises me because I'd prefer that her dog not be around my children.

    She's called me names and said she'd prefer I don't attend family gatherings. We continued to attend family events and I have been pleasant to her. She's ignored me. Now we go a day before or afte holidays. At Christmas my SIL antagonized me all day and made comments about my simple and prudent parenting (wash your hands before coming to dinner).

    My MIL & FIL don't recognize this as impacting the entire family. They see it as something between me and the SIL, but I no longer care to attend family functions.
    by Display Name:Susan edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:50:38 PM
  • Any recommendations for daughters-in-law whose husbands don't communicate well with their mothers?

    My friends and I find that, if our husbands don't communicate with their mothers, the mothers end up asking us about how their sons are doing and it can be awkward.
    by Nancy edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:53:27 PM
  • @Anonymous Carolyn: Remember the child (now adult) put up for adoption is innocent. the kids can be angry at their dad, but not the (as Carolyn says) "love child."
  • @KerriMPR good advice: respect and love your family members for who they are, regardless of the decisions they make.
  • I learned that my sister's first relationship is with a married man in her Ph.D. program.

    The wife is in Cali and has no idea. I'm angry and have tried talking to her about why it's an unhealthy relationship but she won't break it off. How do I help her without cutting off all ties?
    by Sad edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:57:47 PM
  • Kerri, I am listening to you and Carolyn at work. I don't have a family issue per say that I'd like to discuss but more so a question about how you are answering your questions.

    t sounds like your basis for counseling people operates from that the individual is supreme; rather seeing that our identities are multi-faceted and shaped by our families, relationships, and society at large. That being said, it seems like your perspective is more of a culturally based perspective (America highly values individual rights and freedoms) rather than a “timeless” perspective. Especially given that individualism is a recent phenomenon in human history. Do you value family structures as a basis for society. Or do you value individualism as a basis for social structure? Or do you think there should be a synthesis of both?
    by Curt edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 4:58:11 PM
  • Over the last 3.5 years my mother decided that my now-fiancee and her kids are interlopers - interfering in her grandmother/granddaughter relationship with my 12 y/o daughter, who we have 1/2 time custody of.

    After enough hurtful words and behaviors, I established boundaries. My mother immediately began using my ex, and even my ex's mother to get to my daughter - phone, skype, email, packages, even visits from out of town.

    My ex and I have an overall good co-parenting relationship, but it has been a struggle to convince her how hurtful my mother's actions are, and to think about the "lessons" my daughter is taking from this situation.
    by Anonymous edited by Stephanie Curtis, MPR News 4/18/2012 5:03:03 PM
  • @KerriMPR Best advice from my 6 yo granddaughter she learned in preschool "you get what you get and you don't complain".
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