DEAR MARY ANN: A dear friend whose home I often visit for family occasions has a sister-in-law who is involved in ghost hunting, the paranormal, etc. She has a very domineering personality to begin with, and she talks incessantly about this obsession during family gatherings. I do believe that there are many things on this Earth that we do not understand and, in fact, firmly feel that any such spirits should be respected and not taunted or used for amusement. Also, although I am not psychic, I have had since childhood a "sensitivity" about such things. I feel increasingly ill -- nausea, dizziness -- when I am around this woman. I have asked her to not talk about such things, telling her how I feel, but it is like trying to stop a freight train. I would like to talk to a priest about this but am embarrassed. I have started carrying around a bottle of holy water when I am in this woman's presence. Seriously, I am very frightened about this.
DEAR RESPECTFUL: If you had a boil on your backside you would see a doctor. Don't let embarrassment hold you back from talking with a priest. Your sensitivity to this woman's fixation with ghosts and paranormal activities has impacted your well-being, and you should seek counsel with a professional.
Fascination with spirits and the forces of good and evil are fueled by superstition, culture and religion. Today's heightened interest in the occult is partially nurtured by television shows that use stories about the unseen world to promote the show's revenue and ratings.
Your awareness and sensitivity to this woman's aura has cast a negative cloud around you. Real or unreal, her connections with the other world have you spooked. The spirits will rest easier and so will you if you avoid conversation with her.
DEAR MARY ANN: I am in my second marriage with adult children on both sides. I am finding myself becoming more distant every day to my spouse's children and noticing that my spouse becomes closer to my children mostly because of the way we are both treated. My children treat and respect him the way I would expect to be respected and treated by his children. We have been married 25 years now, and it is not getting any better. I have, however, told myself that it doesn't matter and try to move on until something happens or is said that causes an argument and confrontation between us. There is a serious issue with one of his children that I am told just to forget about and move on. Well, that does work sometimes until something again happens and triggers all of the buildup of "moving on." I am tired of being hurt and leaving the house in tears. What can I do?
-- TEARFUL STEPMOTHER
DEAR TEARFUL STEPMOTHER: You inherited a problem. You didn't create it, and you can't control it. Your husband's children are not open or receptive to your efforts. The harder you try to bring harmony to this blended family, the more you will fail. Acknowledge that your husband has a relationship with his children; however, distance yourself from any of their drama and don't be their problem solver. Your husband may not have the gumption to defend you when his kids manipulate his emotions and pull on his heartstrings. So start to maintain your own boundaries and stick up for yourself. This should become easier for you once you relinquish your vision of everyone living happy ever after. Try for civil.
Carry a new image of a blended family in your heart: yourself, your husband and your children. Your husband's children have set up roadblocks that have to be detoured.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice. First Published June 18, 2013 4:00 AM