Dear Amy: I have a 24-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son. I’ve raised them on my own.
The two of them are like night and day.
My son is extremely kind, does anything for me, and treats me with love and respect.
My daughter is always very rude. She starts arguments with both her brother and with me over nothing. She puts the blame on everyone else and refuses to talk about it. I can ask her what time it is, and she will be convinced that I yelled at her.
I love her so much, but I avoid even talking to her because I can’t stand the constant conflict. I worry that if she is like this to others she will live a very lonely life. I’ve even tried writing a letter, hoping she would try to understand I’m not ever trying to argue with her.
I’m at my wits’ end.
How do I get her to understand that no one is out to get her? I’m just trying to connect with her. I want her to understand that I’m not going to live forever; I don’t want her looking back with regret that she didn’t try harder. Worse than that, I worry that she will finally realize that she completely misunderstood every situation and caused all of this emotional pain for both of us. This included one instance of her becoming physically abusive to me.
I had a wonderful relationship with my mom. It saddens me that I don’t have one with my daughter.
I’m signing this with my tears. — A Very Sad Mother
Dear Sad: Physically attacking you puts your daughter’s behavior in an alarming category. If she lives in your home, she should find somewhere else to live.
However, your letter contains some hyperbolic cues — and I wonder if your daughter might have inherited some tendencies from you. For instance, has she really misunderstood every single interaction between the two of you? Every single one?
Have you ever examined your own behavior to see if you might have made even one choice during her upbringing that might have contributed to her attitude?
Did she experience a trauma of some kind that might have thrown her off course?
"I won’t be around forever, and you’ll be sorry when I’m gone" is a fairly manipulative approach — it also puts your needs and perspective front and center.
Urge her to get professional help to talk through some of her challenges.
If you want to try to change the dynamic, you should stop being afraid of your daughter’s reactions. And don’t compare her to her angelic brother.
Dear Amy: I am struggling over whether I want my father in my life.
He was very abusive when I was a child.
I have confronted him and set boundaries, but he doesn’t always respect them. He will yell and use foul language toward me.
He still tries to be controlling, which causes arguments.
However, I have little social support and sometimes he is supportive and a listening ear.
I don’t know how to make a final decision about his place in my life. Can you help? — Confused in New Mexico
Dear Confused: You don’t need to make a final decision about your father’s place in your life. You do need to pay close attention to your own feelings and emotions — and less to his.
Always respond to him swiftly and proportionally. If he attempts to control you, don’t argue with him. Tell him, "Nope — Dad, we’re not going to do that." Your response to yelling and foul language should be to either say, "I won’t let you do that," and hang up the phone, or — if you are in his presence — to immediately leave.
I do think it is a mistake — but a natural one — to seek support and a listening ear from someone who cannot be counted on. Understand that your father will never be what you want him to be. Never.
Read, "The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing The Patterns Of Intimate Relationships," by Harriet Lerner (2014, Avon).
Dear Amy: I applaud your response to "In Love," from the young woman whose boyfriend never wanted to get married.
I was that guy who would not even consider marriage — ever — because of my parents’ divorce. However, at age 35, I married the gal that I have been with for 34 years.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and a little bit of luck! — Greg
Dear Greg: When it’s right — you just know.