Ask Amy

Put fighting brothers on notice

Dear Amy: I love my mother very much. However, she likes to have control over every situation. I am finally at the end of my rope.

I am 37 years old, married and the mother of two young children. My father passed away when I was a baby, and my mom never remarried.

I have two older brothers who never got along as children and cannot get along as adults at family functions.

The stress of the holidays gets to my husband and me because we never know when my brothers are going to get into a screaming match -- or worse.

My husband and I do not want our kids to see this kind of behavior. My mother believes that we should get together fairly frequently, even though my brothers don't get along.

I have told her that I can't deal with their arguing any longer, and she gets mad at me, refuses to understand and starts to cry.

I told her I'm not mad at anyone. I just can't handle the arguing anymore.

I know she doesn't understand my point of view no matter how I explain it, so I've been lying to her and giving other excuses not to attend some family functions.

I'm tired of lying to her about this.

Please suggest how to handle this.

-- Tired

Dear Tired: You have a perfectly defensible point of view. If your mother refuses to see this from your perspective, you're going to have to accept her limitations and choose to do what's right for your children, regardless. The worst thing you can do is to lie. Lying only reshuffles your challenges; it doesn't solve anything.

You and your husband should have a calm and consistent strategy for dealing with this.

If you are at a function where your brothers are misbehaving, then you should say, "Let's get our coats; it's time to leave."

If you host a family function, your brothers should be forewarned that you run a peaceful household. They should be told that if you feel they aren't behaving within basic acceptable boundaries, they will be asked to leave.

Dear Amy: I have a question I've never seen addressed before. My marriage was civilly annulled. In social situations, I am flummoxed when asked my marital status (because by law, I am considered single).

Now that I am dating again, this is particularly a tricky question. How would you suggest I handle this?

-- Single in Connecticut?

Dear Single: Congratulations: You're single. When dating, you can save the particulars of your annulment story for the third or fourth date.