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Be yourself; Stop trying to please your step-mom and let her grow up

Dear Annie: I have struggled almost all of my married life with never being accepted by my mother-in-law. I have tried everything, just shy of learning how to do backflips. No matter what I do, it is never right.

It is extremely hurtful, especially because my husband never stood up for me until a few years ago. I even went and tried to visit with her, but since then, I have become the bad one for calling her out on several hurtful actions. I told her she was welcome at my house.

She has a great son and wonderful grandchildren who she is missing out on. She lives in the same town and doesn’t acknowledge our children because she might have to see me. It is so sad!

I like to fix problems and make people happy. I can’t figure out how to fix this. Any advice would be helpful. It puts a strain on our marriage and is just plain sad. — How Do I Fix This?

Dear How Do I Fix This?: You can’t control other people’s actions toward you. How she treats you says a lot more about her than it does about you.

When you say you’ve been “calling her out on several hurtful actions,” ask yourself if these conversations are done in a loving and productive manner. Conflict resolution does not usually consist of one person pointing out all the hurtful actions of the other person — at least not without the help of a trained therapist in the room.

The best way to fix this problem is to lay low and stop trying so hard to please her and instead just be yourself. If she can’t accept that, then it is her problem, and you are correct that she is missing out on quality time with her grandchildren and son. Keep trying to see if your husband can speak with her. You might have to consult the help of a professional.

Dear Annie: Your column with letters from both sides concerning the mixing of church and politics was enlightening. I believe each side made valid points, but I think the issue boils to justice: how it works and what it is.

The problem is that politics have become a religion, and religion has become politicized. At best, people on each side are talking past one another; at worst, people are really enraging one another.

The solution is easy to say but hard to implement: We all have to learn to listen better, and with an open heart, if we expect to be heard ourselves. No one has ever changed someone else’s mind by yelling at that person. We could all do well to heed Shakespeare’s admonition that just as we pray to God to have mercy on us, we should at least try to do the same for our fellow passengers.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d;/ It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/ Upon the place beneath …” — Still Trying

Dear Still Trying: Your letter offers a lot of wisdom. Thank you.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette – is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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