Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: My relationship with my family has gotten worse since the 2016 election. We just can’t see eye to eye on anything and politics seems to be spilling into every aspect of our conversations. At this point, I don’t even want to visit my mom or dad because I cannot have another conversation like the ones we’ve been having. I love my parents, but they have this ugly side to them and I’m tired of dealing with it. My husband says I need to be more tolerant, and that our kids love visiting with them, but they are the ones that need to chill out. Any advice?

-- RED WHITE AND VERY SAD

DEAR RED WHITE AND VERY SAD: I’m so sorry that your relationship with your family has been impacted by the election. I doubt that you are the only one. It seems as though a lot of tensions have boiled up between families, friends, colleagues, and perfect strangers. But at the end of the day, you need to do what is right for your family. This isn’t to say that you don’t have the right or the reason to feel upset. But, in order to just get through the next days, weeks and months ahead, some ground rules need to be put out there. I would call your parents and tell them that the fighting has to stop. Ask for a truce. Just say it is going to start hurting their relationship with their grandchildren and everyone needs to set a better example. Make a pledge that you won’t talk or bring up politics at the next family function and just see how it goes. If everyone can hold to it, great. If negativity starts to arise, disengage. It is hard enough out there, we don’t need to make family time part of the battle. Everyone may be on edge right now, but there is no reason to taunt each other to jump off the cliff of sanity. If you want them to be kind, try being kind to them. If you want them to stop talking politics, change the subject or walk away when the conversation starts. Make it clear that this is a neutral zone. If they can’t do that, then I would take a step back and give yourself enough breathing room until they decide to stop breathing down your neck. We are all in this together, whether we want to admit it or not, so hurting one another is not going to solve anything. And while it’s true that you can’t pick your family, you can pick how you choose to react to them.

DEAR NATALIE: In the last six months or so, I’ve gained about 30 pounds due to a health issue. I’m working on it, but my boyfriend said the other night that he was not attracted to me right now. He hasn’t kissed me or anything in a few months and it’s making me feel much worse. I’ve been stress eating which I know is bad, but I’m so sad and feel so lonely. I tried talking to him about how badly it is making me feel but he said he can’t control his attraction. I feel so alone. What should I do? -- NOT LOVEABLE

DEAR NOT LOVEABLE: First, I am so sorry that you are struggling with a health issue. Whatever it is, I hope that you are able to work through it and feel better soon. But when it comes to your boyfriend, there is no excuse for his unkind behavior towards you, especially when you are vulnerable and not feeling well. This should be a time that he is supportive and affectionate. Even if you aren’t feeling as romantic right now, hugs and kisses and sweet words can go a long way to feeling bonded to your partner. He doesn’t seem like much of one and in all honesty, you don’t need this kind of negativity in your life. I would dump him. If he can’t handle a weight gain, what would he do in a real crisis or health scare or tragic scenario? Sounds to me as though he is selfish and heartless. I would walk away from this emotional abuse and enjoy being with yourself for a while. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you lost a few pounds after calling it quits with him. Relationship baggage can weigh heavy on someone, and I doubt this is the only time he has acted this way towards you. If this is how he is now, why would you want to see how mean he can get? Walk away, focus on your health and get back to feeling your best on your own terms. Love should be patient, love should be kind, and love should never shame you for not feeling your best.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: New to networking? Don’t worry. If you are at a networking event, remember everyone is there for the same reasons. Don’t be afraid to go up to someone new and introduce yourself. Start off with a smile and ask them about themselves. The rest will unfold naturally!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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