Article posted Thursday, July 9, 2009 5:33pm

Dear Mary Pat,

I love my family, but they can drive me crazy. They stayed with me for an entire week leading up to the Fourth of July weekend and I had run out of patience by day three. I tried to keep my temper in check, but after one too many criticisms of how I cleaned my house/stocked my refrigerator/disciplined my children/what I wore to dinner, I blew up. They were shocked and stood there looking completely innocent. I don’t think they realize the impact of their words and I can’t seem to let it roll off my back. What should I do?


Want a Trade-In

Sister Bay, WI

Dear Want a Trade-In,

The old saying about families is true – you can’t choose ‘em. In other words, since a trade-in is not an option, you are stuck with them. Part of the problem lies in the closeness of most families. Since knowing someone since birth creates a bond and a level of comfort, that gives most family members license to say whatever is on their minds. There is no filtering. Siblings are especially guilty of this; they are 20 times more blunt with each other than they are with their friends. Examples:  “Holy hell! Is that what you are wearing?!”; “It’s just that I thought you would do better for yourself when picking out a husband”; “I didn’t call you fat, although, now that you mention it…”; “When do you think you’ll get a real job?”

I don’t know how to advise you on remaining patient – that is one of my (few) shortcomings. I probably would have handled the situation in the same way – let everything build, totally lose my head, say something regrettable, etc. But that’s where you have to remember that you are not doing anything different than your family – you are saying whatever is on your mind. They have no problem doing that, so you should give yourself permission to be equally frank. I’m not suggesting that you be cruel and call them names, but voice your frustrations and feel free to tell them what is bothering you about their behavior. If that doesn’t work, kick your brother under the table when your mom isn’t looking.

Good luck,

Mary Pat