DEAR AMY: My sister lives on the other side of the country and I visit her once a year. She also visits me. While our politics don't match up that well, we still agree on some pretty basic values regarding religion, gay rights, women's rights, the environment, etc. Plus, I just adore her and we get along beautifully. However, her husband "Stan" and I couldn't be more different politically and religiously. For years I have just accepted this about him, and given our distance and infrequent contact, it hasn't been an issue. And as long as he's good to my sister, it's all good. As he has gotten older, he has become a lot more strident and aggressive in his views. On my last visit, I made sure that I didn't bring up anything that could set him off. A random comment I made in response to a broadcaster provoked a very unpleasant tirade from him. He verbally attacked me. He let it be known that he viewed me as a naive, clueless "socialist" who is hell-bent on destroying America. I was shocked. Within a few minutes he seemed fine and unaffected by his previous antics. I'm still reeling from this. I don't have a thick skin. How do I handle future visits?
DEAR PEACEFUL: Ideally your sister would remind her husband that you are her adored sister and also a guest in their home. Verbally lashing out is unacceptable. You should also ask your sister for guidance concerning "Stan's" tirades. She might say, "Oh, he's all gruff and bluster; don't let him bother you," but these outbursts do bother you.
Obviously if you are a guest in their home, leaving is not practical -- and would adversely affect your relationship with your sister. So try to prepare yourself. When this happens again, you should respond to him directly and calmly. You can say, "Stan, I know you're passionate but it would be easiest on me if you wouldn't raise your voice." In terms of his name-calling -- which is uncalled for (and ridiculous) -- you should picture him as a big old bear, growling in the woods.
DEAR AMY: I am a 17-year-old girl. I have a boyfriend who is really protective of me. I am also friends with "Rob." My boyfriend doesn't like Rob and doesn't like me hanging out with him. It's not a jealously issue because he knows that I'm not romantically involved with Rob -- he just doesn't like him. He has asked me to cut off my friendship because it hurts him to see me with someone he hates. I have tried to reason with him, but he won't change his position. I don't want to hurt my boyfriend. How can I balance these two relationships?
DEAR CONFLICTED: When somebody loves you, he does not ask you to cut off other relationships. Questions you need to ask yourself are, "Do my other friends like 'Rob'? Do my family members like him?" If the answer is yes, then this should raise a red flag about your boyfriend.
His attempt to control you and the manipulation and pressure he is exerting are signs of an abuser. His behavior is consistent with someone headed down this path, and you should not let this happen.
One way to balance these two relationships would be to lose the boyfriend and keep the friend. Boyfriends come and go, but true friendships are forever.
DEAR AMY: "Worried Mother" was anguished about her daughter's abusive relationship. When I was 18, I broke up with and then reunited with my abusive boyfriend. He was awful to me. My parents found a job opportunity for me in another state for the summer and asked if I would like to get away for a couple of months. I was so exhausted from dealing with this relationship that I gratefully accepted. I came back at the end of the summer and I was able to break free cleanly. It was the perfect way for my parents to help me get away from this bad situation.
DEAR GRATEFUL: I'm so happy this effort on your parents' part was successful.