Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Girlfriend and Her Brother Have Vicious Fights

DEAR HARRIETTE: I seem to have become the go-between when my girlfriend and her brother get into arguments. I am an only child, so I am unaccustomed to seeing family members go at each other so viciously. They are quick to argue and can be downright mean when they are talking to -- or yelling at -- each other.

When I’m around, I can help them see that their points of view aren’t necessarily that different. But their intensity scares me. Should I continue to help them or just step away? I’m worried that they will end up hating each other if they can’t figure out another way to communicate. -- Like Cats and Dogs

DEAR LIKE CATS AND DOGS: Check in with your girlfriend to find out if she values your interventions. It could be that she appreciates your perspective and that it helps her and her brother to look at whatever they are discussing from a different viewpoint. What you want to avoid, though, is having to be present at every interaction.

Tell your girlfriend about your worries for her and her brother. Encourage her to approach him in a more loving, respectful way. One thing that adult children need to do is to look at their lives with fresh eyes. Whatever their triggers were as children do not have to remain triggers. They can look at their lives and recognize that they have the power to interact with each other using tools that they likely have developed over time and use with other people.