Dear Annie: I've been happily married for 10 years. During the time I've known my in-laws, I've gone from liking them and tolerating our differences in how we relate and communicate to dreading their visits and having very little tolerance for them. They always think they know best. And even when they actually do know better than we do and help us come to the right solution for something, it's explained in a condescending way. It has the tone of, "That's obviously how you should do it. Why didn't you think of that?" It puts me on the defensive, and then the whole day feels tense, although I'm not even sure they notice.
Another thing that annoys me is when my mother-in-law decides to start cleaning the house and reorganizing the cabinets. I know; it sounds nice — but if you knew this woman, you'd see she's being passive-aggressive. She makes little "joking" comments about our clutter.
Then there's my father-in-law, who tinkers with the thermostat whenever he's here until it feels as if we're in a jungle. I would never dream of changing the thermostat without asking in a house I'm a guest in! Even thinking about it now, I feel my blood pressure rising.
With every visit, my fuse gets shorter and shorter. My wife hears me, but she's lived with it all her life; she doesn't know any different. And she's always quick to point out all the things she has to deal with when we're with my parents.
What do you suggest? — Tick, Tick...
Dear Tick: You'd better dial your own thermostat down a few degrees, bub! There's a lot to be said for picking your battles, and that goes doubly when it comes to in-laws.
The next time they're in town and you feel your temperature rising — literally or figuratively — take a quick break to cool off. Go in the bathroom and splash yourself with cold water if you need to. Stamp out those flames of anger before they consume you.
With practice, you'll learn to let the little things slide. And chill out about the thermostat.
Dear Annie: I live in an apartment, and my next-door neighbor is on my last nerve. His TV is on our shared wall, and the sound permeates my apartment. I get that apartment dwellers have to deal with occasional parties and loud music and such, and I've always tried to be tolerant. But no one needs to watch CNN at full volume all day long. He's a young guy, probably mid-30s, so I don't think his is an issue of poor hearing.
We don't have much of a relationship. When we see each other, we nod. That's about the extent of it. I don't want to make things awkward, but I can't take it anymore. How should I go about asking him to turn down his TV? — Blasted Out
Dear Blasted: Ah, the soothing sounds of the 24-hour news cycle. What's not to love?
Drop hints that you can hear him. Perhaps the next time you see your neighbor in the hall, you could ask him what he thought of Anderson Cooper's show last night.
If that doesn't work, be direct. Tell him, "I'm sure you're not aware, but I can hear your TV loud and clear." Then work together to find a mutually agreeable level at which to cap the noise.
If this neighbor turns out to be not-so-neighborly, then it's time to go to the landlord and complain.
Hey, on the bright side, at least you're up on current events.
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Photo credit: Maxwell Hamilton