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In an intra-family clash, try to sort out priorities and desired outcomes

On the horns of an intra-family dilemma of clashing beliefs

Q: I'm caught between my husband and my dad. Dad is getting older and becoming very set in his political views. My and Hubby's views are opposite his but we do not engage him in debate because he tends to be closed-minded and prone to ranting. Fine, okay, whatever.

But a recent issue came up in which Dad stated opinions that go directly against our church teachings (we are all of the same religion). Husband is irate that I didn't "stand up for your faith" when my dad was on a rant. My feeling is that it would do no good, and alienate us from my parents, who live nearby and dote on our children.

How do I know when to stand up for myself and when to let it go?

Anonymous

A: First, you try to figure out what your priorities tend to be in these situations, reflexively; then, you try to add these up into a general worldview; then you draw on that world view when the next conflict arises.

Amazing that a rollicking, religious/political/intra-family/intergenerational rhubarb can produce that dry a response, but there it is.

In the case of the recent argument, for example, you might decide your priority was to keep the family peace. Peace was possible, getting through to your father wasn't.

Add that to your history, and what belief system comes through? Maybe you opt for expediency over principle, and need to revisit those principles. But maybe, too, you value pragmatism over absolutes, or family over philosophy. Maybe you believe in considering context (say, you suspect your father's growing combativeness is a factor of age more than free will) vs. focusing narrowly on debate topics.

Knowing your ideals, and building confidence in them, is your best chance at staying calm, focused, articulate and principled in the face of irate husbands and dads.

Tell her the facts — and only the facts — and wait for a response

Q: I fell for a girl the hardest I have in over seven years, we dated for four months, and she called it quits (out of the blue) right before I embarked on a two-month summer internship in Africa. We haven't spoken/texted/IM'd a word since.

It's not that I don't want to — I miss her terribly — but is there any point in expressing as much? I know that, absent an unequivocal rebuff, you're supposed to pursue what you really, really want no matter how much pride is at stake, but there's no way I could possibly make first contact and still win her back, is there? What if she is withholding regrets because she thinks I am angry and bitter?

I've never missed someone so much in my life.

Brooklyn

A: Your three paragraphs consist of the following: facts, speculation, fact. Or: sympathy, forehead slappage, sympathy. You're a lot better served by the facts.

So stick to those. Get in touch with her when/if you're back, let her know you miss her, and make it clear you'd like another chance, but only if she wants one, too. That's it — no further contact unless she initiates it.

In an intra-family clash, try to sort out priorities and desired outcomes 10/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 5:30am]

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