Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Every time I visit my sister, I leave frustrated. She is so bossy. For the entire time we are together, she tells me what to do and when. I always feel like I'm on pins and needles. When I visit, I stay in her house, which makes it that much worse -- it's her turf. I do appreciate being able to visit her, as she lives far away from our family. But honestly, we are both adults (well into our 40s), and I am sick of her and her ways. When I have told her how I feel, she says I am too sensitive. Maybe so, but I have had enough. -- Over Sibling Squabbles, Philadelphia

DEAR OVER SIBLING SQUABBLES: You have to change the dynamics of your relationship. That likely means staying somewhere else when you visit. Do you have friends who live in her town? Is there a nearby hotel or motel that is affordable? By redefining the way in which you engage, you create the opportunity to shake up the old ways and define new terms.

In the moment, you can also speak up for yourself. Without arguing, you can stand your ground. If she pushes you about something that you consider to be unreasonable, say so. Tell her to back off, that you need some space, that you are not going to do whatever it is she has requested.

Ultimately, you may also decide that you are going to visit with less frequency. For the most part, people are the way they are. It is unhealthy for you to keep up your desire to stay close to your sister, though, if what you actually experience is hostility. For more support, read "Why Can't We Get Along: Healing Adult Sibling Relationships" by Peter Goldenthal.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I looked in the mirror the other day and had to gasp. I'm not quite sure when it happened, but I have gained a tremendous amount of weight. I used to be so cute and hip. Now I am fat. It will come as no surprise that I do not exercise much at all. I work a million hours to take care of my family. I am afraid that if I don't do something, though, really bad things might happen. How can I turn my life around? -- Almost Obese, Salt Lake City

DEAR ALMOST OBESE: You've taken the first step -- recognizing the truth about your body. Next, schedule a physical. Find out everything that is right and everything that needs improvement in your body. Ask your internist for a referral to a nutritionist. If you are considered obese, your insurance will likely cover this service. Learn how to eat more conscientiously. And choose some kind of physical activity to get your body moving. If you can, find a buddy who will support you as you begin your journey to wellness.