Would my partner and I be better served fighting this battle, or saving our strength for possibly larger future conflicts (marriage, children, etc.)?
Answer: "Mom, when you wish people dead, you can't expect them to friend you on Facebook." The sooner you start telling your mom the truth when she crosses lines, the better your outlook gets for "(marriage, children, etc.)."
Q: My older brother has always been outspoken and often interrupts others in group settings. He likes to be the storyteller and center of attention. In the past, this has gotten me quite angry and I would try to show him how domineering he was. I have failed to plant the seeds of empathy, and have accepted him as he is. That is family.
However, I get along well with his wife. At a family event a year ago, she confessed after a drink that she knew the first years of marriage could be tough, but she didn't expect it to be that bad.
Recently, I had lunch with her, and asked if things were going better. She implied yes, but said he still ignorantly instructs her on, for example, things she could do while he goes for a run.
I encouraged her to stand up for herself while acknowledging that my own suggestions had not borne fruit.
I'm worried he'll lose a wonderful influence on his life without knowing how it happened. Is there anything I can say to my brother on being less domineering in his marriage, or am I just sticking my nose where it doesn't belong?
A: No, there's no magic words that will rewrite your brother into someone likable, and yes, you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong.
You also know you're sweet on his wife, yes?
That in itself is not a problem; it happens, it's natural, and she probably is as special as you imply. But it will be a problem, huge, if you succumb to the temptation to put on your Relationship Man cape and get involved in their marriage. Don't do it.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.