Aunt she liked is now looking for trouble

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I have an aunt (married to my dad's brother) with whom I have been fairly close over the past 18 years. I don't have any siblings, and our family is very small, so even though she is 16 years older than me, we have been very close. We are drastically different in most ways -- she dropped out of high school, I have two master's degrees; she is a Republican, I am very liberal; I work outside the home, she doesn't -- and we both have strong opinions. We also have children who are the same age, and that has helped us keep our connection. When we disagree, she will stop talking to me for months at a time. She either won't talk about what happened, or if she does, it is through yelling and being obstinate. Several times I have decided that I am done dealing with her, but eventually we get along again, and our families spend time together several times a year. At the last two functions at our home, she has tried to start arguments with me in front of other people. I think this is rude and inappropriate. I cannot invite my own mother to family functions because she thinks she is being entertaining by cutting me down in front of others, and I feel my aunt is quickly making her way into this category as well. What would you do?Fed Up

DEAR FED UP: You can control this to some extent by anticipating that this woman will attempt to bait you. And you can determine that you will not play this particular game, because if someone throws an argument and no one shows up, then the perpetrator is left more or less stewing in her own juice.

She might have an illness -- or become argumentative when she drinks. You are already excluding your own mother from family functions, but I suggest you explore ways to cope with your aunt's behavior -- a combination of ignoring and deflection might work -- or you could mentally (or physically) leave the room.