DEAR AMY: Help! I have three adult children, including two who are doctors. The past two gatherings turned ugly when my son got into an argument with my daughter. He can't let small things go and he tends to overanalyze anyone's behavior (he is a psychologist). He always believes the other person is wrong and he is right. We cannot diffuse this, and it carries over to the next day via text messages. My husband and I are caught in the middle. I am at my wits' end and need to resolve the latest argument. The argument before this one lasted for four months. This is so hurtful, and I am losing sleep. HELP!
DEAR MOM: You do NOT need to resolve the latest argument.
From your description, your son seems to be a dominating bully. How did he get this way? Perhaps there are clues embedded in the way you have parented him, tolerated him, and even enabled him. It's something to think about, and — if appropriate — to own.
I suspect that your own engagement, worry and anxiety about his behavior and the sibling relationship keep you a passive and fretful witness. Take back your own power.
You have the right and responsibility to establish and enforce basic boundaries regarding behavior exhibited at your home. It's your home. Your adult offspring are not bickering adolescents, but guests.
Your son's beliefs don't matter one whit while he is at your table. His behavior does matter.
These two siblings may forever be an oil-and-water mix. They will both have to learn that, while in your home, aside from garden-variety disagreements, certain obnoxious behavior will not be tolerated.
You and your husband should exit from all texting fights.
You should also prepare yourself for responding to the next in-person outburst.
I suggest a simple and firm: "Nope. We're not doing this. Stop it, please" with no further personal engagement.
Otherwise, you should treat your son the way you would any other belligerent home invader, and either ask him to leave — or you leave.
It's his turn to ruminate on and lose sleep over his behavior. As a psychologist, he should possess the insight and the tools to change.
DEAR AMY: How do you move forward when your life has amounted to mostly regret and disappointment? I have a landmark birthday coming up and have been reflecting on my life. I don't feel like celebrating much. I feel loved but not supported by my family, and I worry about them all the time. I work hard and am respected, but I'm not fulfilled in my career. I've been in counseling more than once over the years, alone and with my partner. It goes nowhere. I know I'm depressed. Medication helps, but doesn't solve life's problems. I am cheerful and smile, and hardly anyone really knows my internal feelings. I have wonderful friends, I volunteer, exercise and enjoy a few activities, but I am not happy. I am stuck and tired of trying so hard with no real satisfaction. Where do I go from here?
Stuck and Tired
DEAR STUCK: Medication can make your depression symptoms manageable, but no medication can solve life's problems.
Sometimes, you can't solve life's problems, either. The trick is to learn how to cope with events, problems, and feelings as they arise. I think of this as "sitting in my discomfort," and understanding that overall — life is hard, but challenges can (sometimes) eventually bring special meaning and insight. And sometimes, life just seems to suck, and only reading poetry, wandering through a garden center or watching a few episodes of my favorite sitcom will lift me up. This is basic self-medication.
I don't think you should always smile your way through your days. Opening up to others could help you to feel more connected. You have the makings of a philosopher because you are staring into the existential void — and you are feeling it. Ultimately, this could be your greatest gift.
DEAR AMY: "Disgusted" was complaining about a grandma telling her college-age granddaughter not to get raped or pregnant. This sounds like obvious and great advice, to me. Hopefully the girl will remember her gram's advice and take heed!
DEAR DENNIS: I am publishing this response as an example of many similar responses I've received, all of which convey the attitude that "telling a girl not to get raped" is an acceptable way to convey concern.
We have a lot of work to do.