Dear Amy: I am a 53-year-old woman. I have always been very close to my (now 80-something) parents, but our recent national political drama has forced us into different corners.
I try to think critically and independently. My husband and I have both had more conversations about politics recently than our entire 31 years of marriage.
Now both of my parents are forwarding long email chains full of falsehoods and dangerous conspiracies written by “anonymous” authors and not fact-checked in any way.
They spend time on Facebook posting threads and repeating things which are cringe-worthy and preposterous. They expect me to agree with them or else “forever lose their respect.”
It is breaking my heart that we cannot find other subjects we can discuss without devolving into the same arguments and ugly rhetoric.
I am avoiding their calls and not responding to those emails.
I am expected to “pick a team” and have drawn some boundaries, but my dad (especially) is trying to bait me into verbal conflicts, and I’ve had enough.
I feel as if his attempts to trigger me are insulting and hurtful.
I know I’m not alone in alienated family relationships these days, but I’m not sure how much I can take.
I don’t want to spend the last years we have together having arguments about being recruited or evangelized to their “team.”
— Dumbfounded Daughter
Dear Dumbfounded: One way to cope with this tension and pressure would be for you to deliberately reduce the material that triggers your reaction. Create a “rule” on your email in-box where you direct email from your folks’ accounts directly into a folder. You could then scroll through during a time when you’re prepared – or ignore these emails altogether.
“Hide” their posts on Facebook (or better yet, disengage from that platform entirely).
Breathe through your personal contact with them. Be firm, consistent, and deflect: “Dad, I’m not going to discuss this with you. Let’s find a different topic, OK? Tell me, did you and mom play golf last weekend?”
Rinse, repeat, and don’t bite the hook.
At their age and stage in life, they will need a healthy, balanced, and calm person in their corner.
Dear Amy: My sister, who lives in a city about two hours flight time from us, has been pressuring my husband and me to visit sometime soon, or to commit to staying at her house this coming Christmas.
The problem is that she allows her two cats free run of her house. Basically, it is straight from the litter box to any surface that strikes their fancy.
They are welcome to jump up on the kitchen counters, hang around the stovetop while she is cooking, (in hopes of swiping food from a pan), or simply curl up for a good long nap on the dining room table.
In the past when I have visited, I have found myself defending whatever is on my plate from their “curiosity”.
We like cats but are not comfortable visiting her and especially eating at her house. I have told her we are not a fan of the cat free-for-all, but she just dismisses our concerns and insists there is nothing she can do about it.
I’ve expressed how I feel, but she doesn’t seem to care. She will be upset that we aren’t planning a visit, however.
What should we do?
Dear Cat-astrophic: Your sister already knows how you react to the presence of these cats, but the cats live there, and you don’t.
You might split the difference by planning staying at a rental apartment during your visit. Then you could entertain her.
Dear Amy: I liked your thoughtful and well-researched response to “Anonymous in NC,” about her crush and romantic attachment toward her therapist.
However, I feel you omitted an important point. She states about her therapist, “She has even said to me that she considers me a friend, as well as a client.”
From where I stand, the therapist should not have told her that. This confession to her client that she thinks of her as also a friend is an open door to invite the client to step into a blurry relationship.
I’m surprised that wasn’t stated somewhere in the lengthy ethics rules you looked over.
Dear Concerned: It was not stated in the ethics rules I quoted from in my response, but a therapist’s bid toward friendship is absolutely a breach of the boundary – and I should have noted that.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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