Dear M,

My mother recently humiliated me in front of a new woman to the family (my brother’s new girlfriend).  I am under a lot of stress due to being unemployed for almost 2 years now.  I’m wondering whether to show for the holiday since I’m not feeling strong enough to handle my mother’s angst (after some thought I realize she’s been doing this for years).  However, I know from past experience with my family that not showing up usually makes things worse.  What do you suggest?  Please don’t say talk to mom.  She will only feel more powerful if she knows she’s getting to me.


Dear Embarrassed,

Family can be very difficult to deal with sometimes, but you have to remember, that unlike friends you don’t care for anymore, you are stuck with your family. Even though you do not have to necessarily see them or even like them all that much, you do not want to create a situation that could potentially blow up in your face. It could be messy, and in the long-run it will not help any of the problems you are dealing with.

Holidays tend to be notorious for families to either forgive-and-forget or turn the living room into a better boxing ring that you would see on pay-per-view television. If your family is the former, than you might want to take the opportunity to smooth things over, by doing something everyone can be proud of. Do something to improve your health and spirit – start a yoga class or take up swimming at the local pool. No one can negate when someone is taking steps toward self-improvement.

Talking to someone can be difficult sometimes, but in retrospect, it’s always the preferable course of action. You do not want to talk to your mother, and perhaps that’s just what you have to do.

If your family is the kind that would rather fight it out, than talk it out, then maybe it’s time to take some time away from them. Perhaps you can start broadening your job search to another state or even across the country, if you have not already.

Families can seem like a burden when they’re in close proximity all the time. Creating a little bit of space between you, even temporarily might be just the solution to make everyone, including your mother to step back and look at their relationship with you in a broader context – that you are their daughter, sister and they love you.

— M

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