Dear Annie: My mother and I have had a poor relationship for years. She is self-absorbed, demanding and consistently hurtful. She seems to find great amusement in upsetting me and takes every opportunity to do so.
On one occasion, I was talking to my family about an individual whom I particularly admired, and my mother interrupted me to explain that I only knew about him because "they mentioned him on a television show." When I told her how embarrassing that was for me, she retorted, "It was a joke, and if you were offended, that's your problem."
On another occasion, I had just completed my college degree and was quietly showing my diploma at a family gathering. My mother shouted repeatedly that she needed everyone's attention and finally said, "My son just got his degree." Not only did she again embarrass me, but her behavior stole my thunder, and she completely ignored my pleading for her to stop shouting.
This kind of behavior is typical of her, and I am tired of it. I have tried to discuss it with her, and she refuses to accept that she has done anything wrong. I finally decided to sever all contact. I have no desire to associate with someone who tries so hard to hurt me and make me feel small.
The problem is that the rest of my family berates me for being "mean" to her. They expect me to maintain this destructive relationship. How can I explain to them how horribly she treats me? — Frustrated and Alone in Indianapolis, Ind.
Dear Indianapolis: We can see that your mother is difficult, but instead of cutting her off and being the family black sheep, we recommend finding a better way to deal with her. You seem very sensitive to her comments and behavior. The best way to convince her to treat you better is to respond differently. Get some counseling and work on this. If you can change the dynamic between you, you will be less resentful and hurt.
Dear Annie: My older sister, "Lilly," is always taking my things without permission. She uses my socks, hairdryer and makeup. She does this with everyone in the family. She even borrows my parents' car without asking.
Her latest fixation is my iPod. Sometimes, she doesn't return it until I demand that she give it back. I started hiding it, forcing her to ask before taking it. Frankly, I don't want her to use it at all because I don't trust her to return it. But she makes me feel so guilty that I end up giving it to her anyway. Of course, Lilly has her own iPod, but she doesn't like to spend money on new songs.
My parents have addressed it, but nothing changes. Lilly says she means to ask permission, but either forgets or we aren't around. Annie, I've had enough. What can I do? — Better To Ask Permission than Forgiveness
Dear Better: Lilly needs to be "trained." Give her some ground rules. If she returns your iPod in a timely manner, you can trust her to borrow it again. However, if she takes it without permission or won't give it back until you demand it, tell her it is off-limits the next time — and mean it. If you keep falling for the guilt trip, you have no one else to blame.
Dear Annie: This is for "Kentucky," whose friend invited her to a wedding in order to baby-sit the kids. When my sister put me at the kids' table for her (third) marriage, saying there "wasn't enough room" for me to sit with the adult relatives, it was clear where I stood in the family pecking order.
"Kentucky" should either decline the invitation or respond graciously that she would prefer to be with the adults during the event. The bride's response will let her know whether it's a friendship worth keeping. — Kentucky Too
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2012. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.