Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I work as a personal organizer/assistant for a home business. The owners are a married couple whom I respect and enjoy working for.

I’ve worked with them for a few years now but over the last few months I’ve noticed and experienced a steady increase in tension between the two of them. They don’t talk or act like a healthy married couple anymore.

If they have to ask each other something they are yelling at each other, being snippy, slamming doors or ignoring one another.

Lately I’ve found myself stepping in to act as a relay between the two just so they don’t start yelling. I was hired to organize a business, not a marriage.

They’ve never yelled at me, and constantly tell me that they would be lost if I wasn’t around. The problem is, I’m just getting mentally worn out and frustrated with all the fighting. I like my job and my bosses (when they aren’t fighting) but they need some serious marriage counseling.

I feel like a kid sitting in the same room with their parents yelling at each other and I’m trying to do my homework. All of my friends and my husband have told me it’s not my place to say anything and to just deal with it.

Is there a polite way to bring up the issue to my bosses about their behavior?

A Disorganized Mess

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DEAR MESS: You have worked for this couple for a long time. You should bring up this issue, which affects your ability to do your job well — and possibly also the business’ bottom line. Make some notes about specific ways this impacts you. Ask for a meeting with both and say, “I want you to know that the tension I notice between you lately is affecting the business. It has an impact on my ability to communicate with you both.” Don’t suggest counseling and don’t add anything extraneous. It might be time for you to look for a new job.

DEAR AMY: My stepsister “Hannah” and I are both 23 years old. She just texted me to tell me that she hates my mother. She asked me to tell my mother to leave her father.

My mother can be hard to deal with sometimes but is still a very loving and great person (in my opinion).

My relationship with my stepsister has been OK throughout the years. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have listened and been supportive when she has had problems. I am often afraid to voice how I feel about our relationship because she can be unstable.

However, I don’t appreciate her bad-mouthing my mother. I feel like we are adults and need to deal with people as adults. She has put me in a very difficult position. I love my mother and I am protective.

I told Hannah, “You can’t talk to me about my mother like that, OK?” and she got very upset. She felt that she should be able to confide in me. I don’t want to interfere in her relationship with my mother. I’d rather be Switzerland and tell them both to figure this out on their own. This relationship with my stepsister is just so mentally draining. She takes, takes, takes — and never gives. This just makes me feel guilty because of her mental instability. Any advice?

Switzerland

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DEAR SWITZERLAND: I agree with your reactions and instincts. “Hannah’s” challenges have an impact on you — and it’s important for you to be sensitive and compassionate — but that does not mean that she should have a free pass to trash your mother to you, or ask you to interfere in your parents’ marriage. Her illness is not an excuse for this behavior.

You should explain to her, “I have a tough time when you criticize my mother. I would feel a similar way if someone criticized you — I want to be loyal to you both.”

You should counsel Hannah to talk to her father and make sure to keep him in the loop about how she’s feeling. If you suspect that she is in a spiral over this (a definite possibility), talk to your parents to strategize how to help her. You don’t need to pass along her unkind statements, but you should let them know you are concerned.

DEAR AMY: I worry that your response to “Concerned Wife” was not strong enough. Her husband’s long-lost brother had suddenly resurfaced. She should listen to her gut and not let this guy near their home or personal information.

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Worried

DEAR WORRIED: Many readers wrote to caution “Concerned Wife” about the prodigal brother.