DEAR AMY: I am a 42-year-old man who recently returned to my home city after living in another city for almost 15 years.
I have wanted to be back home to be with my family and boyfriend. I thought I would be happy, but I am not. I returned home to family squabbles between my sister and brother, and I am always in the middle. It seems that my brother is laying the blame for many things at my feet.
Things aren't going so well with my parents, either. My dad seems to be very unhappy with me but won't speak about it.
My extended family has shown me unconditional love, and I'm so grateful, but I feel like something is missing from what I expected this move home would be like. I know I am in transition, but I am finding it very difficult at the moment. A small part of me wants to move away from this turmoil, but my boyfriend is here and I want to be with him.
I am at a loss about what to do. I don't want to disappear but it feels as if that is my only choice.
What do I do?
— Unhappy Back Home
DEAR UNHAPPY: You have correctly identified this period as "transitional," and the cardinal rule during a transition is not to make any sudden moves.
When you returned home and re-entered your family system, you threw it off balance. People are acting out and blaming you because it's easiest. And your own expectations of how wonderful things would be might be disproportional.
Your family members might not be doing this on purpose, but your reaction should be intentional. The way to avoid being in the middle of your siblings' squabbles is to recognize when it is happening and deliberately say, "This doesn't have anything to do with me; you guys need to work it out."
Your father isn't using his words, but you can. Ask him what's on his mind.
You will feel better when you are more in control of your reactions. Trust that all of you will continue to adjust.
DEAR AMY: I work in a small office with one other woman. She is a very nice person, has a great sense of humor and for the most part we get along really well, except for when we are actually working.
There are two main problems with working with her. One is that she is extremely chatty and is always trying to talk to me — about the weather, her personal life, our clients, etc. I have told her on a few occasions to please not talk to me right now because I am busy. She will leave me alone for about an hour, and then start up again.
The second problem is that she is constantly bringing in food for me. This is a very nice gesture, but the snacks she brings are always very fatty and high in sugar — things I wouldn't normally eat.
I don't want to be rude to her, but how do I tell this woman to stop bringing me doughnuts without hurting her feelings?
— Worried Co-worker
DEAR WORRIED: This would be easier on both of you if you could behave toward your co-worker the way you would want to be treated.
Be friendly but firm. Tell her, "You are so nice to bring in snacks but I really can't eat doughnuts." You could reciprocate by bringing in something to share with her.
The same goes for talking. She is crossing a boundary and you will simply have to continue to kindly remind her about the boundary until she recognizes and respects it.
DEAR AMY: "Sick of Wedding Excess" stated her complete disdain for her niece's wedding and then proceeded to give the couple a gift I suspect she knew they wouldn't want.
Your answer was priceless. Thanking her would have spared everyone the sound of her self-righteous whining about their over-the-top wedding.
— A Fan
DEAR FAN: The question was about expressing gratitude. And the answer to that question is always yes.