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Getting Along When You Can't Get Away: Advice For Living In Close Quarters


Hunkering down - it's a new way of living for most Americans, drastically curtailing our contact with people. Except, of course, for those with whom you live, children, parents, roommates, significant others. No matter how much love there is between people who live together, sometimes, you know, mom singing will drive you mad. Dad's laughter will grate on your nerves. A brother's obsessive cleaning will rub you raw. And that, you know, cute little phrase - you know what I mean, jelly bean? - that you found so endearing in the person you love is beginning to make you want to scream.

Amy, what's bugging you at your house?

AMY DICKINSON: Well, Scott, my husband and I had really adjusted to having an empty nest. And now we have one young adult living with us and the other on her way home from New York City.

SIMON: Amy Dickinson, of course, who writes the advice column "Ask Amy" - also a panelist on a cute, little quiz show that's carried on this network. We called her up to figure out how to get along with the people you love most when you're marooned together.

How's it going?

DICKINSON: It's going fine. And, actually, I have to say we, during a previous period of togetherness, discovered games that we enjoy playing together. So we're going to play Mahjong tonight. And we played chess.

SIMON: How elevated. Schedules - I mean, you need to schedule alone time, respect me, stay away time. What's your recommendation?

DICKINSON: Oh, I think it's alone long time, separation even within your own home is really vital. Even for families with younger children, a basic schedule, I think, is a really, really great idea. And honestly, Scott, what day is it? You know, a lot of us are going to have trouble differentiating the weekends from the weekdays.

SIMON: Not us. But go ahead, yeah.

DICKINSON: (Laughter) I think it's important to find ways to make the weekend different.

SIMON: Arguments will happen, scenes, hissy fits. What do you do to diffuse tension?

DICKINSON: And this is coming up in roommate situations where people might be a little bit mismatched anyway. And I really, really suggest that if you're in conflict, you find a way to separate until it's cooled down.

SIMON: Amy, I got to tell you I worry about people who might feel like they're pushed over the line by this. Maybe I don't want to get more specific than that.

DICKINSON: Scott, I especially worry about the sort of people who write into me for advice who are in very dysfunctional relationships and might find themselves more or less trapped with someone they're not getting along with. No, it's an incredibly challenging time.

SIMON: I do want to say for anybody who's feeling pressed in, the national suicide help line is 1-800-273-8255. And they will answer anytime. There's help out there for everybody.

DICKINSON: You know, Scott, a lot of people when they're in distress - they don't want to talk, but they will text.

SIMON: They will text. Yes, exactly. OK. And so the text line is - you text home to 741741. Someone will reply.

DICKINSON: Exactly. That's it.

SIMON: Amy Dickinson, of course, writes the advice column "Ask Amy." Thanks so much for being with us, Amy.

DICKINSON: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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