Dear Amy: For a number of years, my family has been poorly treated by my cousin and her husband. This cousin is not on speaking terms with her two sisters, who have also experienced such maltreatment.

They now have a summer residence across the street from mine. They spy on the activities of my elderly mother, my brother and me. They will not acknowledge us but will go to neighbors and spread negative rumors about us. When their son was married, my mother received a letter “dis-inviting” us to the wedding! Not one person from our side of the family was invited.

This cousin’s father passed away a number of months ago. My mother, brother and I sent flowers. Those, too, went unacknowledged. We invited them to 85th and 90th birthday parties for my mother. They did not RSVP and did not attend. We are very hurt by this behavior and seek your insight on how to deal with this stressful situation. — Hurt in N.Y.

Your stress will diminish if you follow your cousin’s lead and act as if she doesn’t exist. Simply step off this roller coaster. Do not invite this couple to events. Don’t ruminate on their behavior. You cannot seem to heal this relationship, so concentrate on the functional friend and family relationships in your life.

Dear Amy: I am fairly happy with my boyfriend. I think the relationship could move forward. I would like that. The problem is that my boyfriend often speaks in baby talk. He always talks to my Labrador retriever using this tone of voice — and the problem is that occasionally he talks to me that way too!

I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I really do want to let him know how much this bothers me. Can you help? — Kelly

In this world, there are two kinds of baby-talkers — those who use baby talk only to talk to animals and those who indiscriminately goo-goo and ga-ga to any creature (human or animal) they enjoy and treasure.

As a person who talks to all animals using a squeaky chew-toy voice, I must advocate for this eccentricity — but only when directed toward animals (and human babies).

You should feel comfortable enough to raise this issue with your boyfriend, but only as it pertains to you (not your dog). You do not get to tell him how to talk to your dog.

You say, “Can I tell you about a habit you have that bothers me?” Keep it simple and ask him if he could be more aware of it. He then gets to tell you about a habit you have that bothers him. If you two are able to communicate and make small adjustments on the other person’s behalf, it bodes well for your future.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune