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Stuck in the Middle Again

Dear Roz,

It seems like I get stuck in the middle of every relationship. I am the mediator between my husband and the kids. I am the go-between with Mom and my sister. I even am supposed to be simultaneously at my parents and in-laws on holidays. HELP!

 

Stuck

Dear Stuck,

 

Maybe you were the Designated Rescuer in your growing-up family, the one who was expected to fix things, make people happy, be the peacekeeper.

It’s a frustrating role and sets you up to be the scapegoat when you don’t pull off a miracle and please everybody. (Which of course you can’t.) I’ve been a counselor and life strategist for a long time, and have found that there’s only one sure-fire fix for this predicament: Resign!

Tell the various parties to talk to each other, not to you or through you. This requires some guts on your part. You might get feedback such as, “You used to be sweet and helpful, and now you’re so selfish!” Your answer is, “Be that as it may, work out your problem directly with the other person. It’s y’all’s problem, not mine.” Where holiday time is concerned, state sweetly but firmly, “If I could clone myself, I would be both places at once, but I can’t, so what I’ve decided is _____.” And one option is None Of The Above: “This year we have decided to stay at home and have our own little holiday, just the (two, three, whatever) of us.”

You have taught your children to take turns. Well, honeybunch, it’s your turn. Resign as mediator! Let the others develop their own problem-solving chops. Otherwise you’re forever stuck in the middle, trying to please everybody or make them all get along.

Bottom line: It’s time for you to be advocate for yourself, instead of for everyone else. Believe me, it’s worth it.

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