Her bullying family strains her engagement

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I have been with my fiance for four years. A major source of upset, stress and contention for us has been the strong need I feel for him to impress and get along with my family members (who can be quite judgmental). They are all difficult and don't get along well with one another, let alone me, but they love me. They have bad-mouthed him, questioned our relationship and put him down to his face (and behind his back). I've talked this through with them and was hoping things were improving. However, the day we got engaged, a friend posted the news on Facebook before I could call them. Once I realized this, I called over and over and left messages, sent texts, etc. The fallout has nearly destroyed my fiancé, our relationship and our relationship with my family. They were furious and mean, and now want us to get over it. The truth is, my fiancé called my mother to ask for my hand a few days prior to asking me, so they knew his plans. How do I get them to see the hurt they caused us?--Lost

DEAR LOST: The way you portray this dynamic, your family members are bullies and you are the frightened child cowering in the corner, apologizing for their destructive behavior and begging them to forgive you and treat you well. This is how they "love" you.

There are two effective ways to respond to bullies: Stand up or avoid. I suggest you do both.

You stand up by drafting a statement, which you should keep on hand for the day when you'll have to use it (soon, I'm guessing). You say a version of, "I'm tired of tolerating this treatment. I'm done with it." And then you quietly exit.

If your family members behave well, they will be rewarded for good behavior. If they behave poorly, you should avoid them.

People who are respectful and kind get to share your world with you. Everybody else can take a seat.