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Q:Have you any tips on how to deal with an emotional bully? My mother-in-law is insulting, but sneaky about it. She insists that she's "just trying to help." If I speak up, she says, "Why are you being so sensitive?" or, "I'm just being honest." She has criticized my parenting skills and chiseled away at my self-esteem more times than I can count.

Because she's my mother-in-law, it isn't easy to get away. I need some strong, but polite, comments to get her to back off. Please help.

Under Attack in West Virginia

A: Two can play the game of selective deafness. Has it occurred to you to simply tune the woman out? Just because a jackass brays does not mean you have to take the noise to heart.

If, however, you feel compelled to respond, then say, "Then I'm going to be honest with you, too. I'm doing the best I can. Your comments are hurtful, and unless you stop criticizing me, I'm going to spend more time with my family during the holidays. Got it?" If that doesn't slow her down, do yourself a favor and follow through.

The grass isn't always greener

Q: I am a 42-year-old woman who has been married for 16 years to a good man. My husband doesn't drink, smoke, run around or even curse. He's a good father and sometimes helps me with housework.

So please tell me why I cannot stand him anymore - his voice, his laugh and anything about him. I just want out, and I don't know why. Please tell me what's wrong with me.

Wanting to be Free

A: You appear to have fallen out of love with your husband. You could also be having a midlife crisis.

The answer is not to run away or hide out at the office, but to remember why you married him and examine what's going on in your head, with professional help if necessary.

Universal Press Syndicate