AGONY AUNT: How do I stop everyone I know from using me?

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Q: I’m fed up of being used by everyone that I know.My wife treats me like a skivvy and my boss is always dumping his work on me. My kids treat me like a bank and only show any affection when they want something. My wife works part-time but I always seem to end up doing the cooking, cleaning and ferrying the kids about because she is out or too tired. My brother borrows money and never seems to be able to pay it back and I know mum is always subbing him. Where is my free time? I used to have mates but don’t get to go out anymore. How can I tell everyone to back off and respect me?

A: We’re all guilty of taking our loved ones for granted at some point, especially if they allow it. We might not mean to take advantage of a situation but it is quite natural to continue a course of action if we are getting away with it. So now something has to give, and it’s not you. 
A fully functional family depends on each other to share responsibilities. When one or other of the members isn’t pulling their weight, things become unbalanced and those shouldering the burden become resentful. Respect has to be earned, so you need to value yourself before you can expect that anyone else will. Although not everybody copes well with confrontation, you need to approach this head on. 
Don’t forget you will face opposition because they have all got used to things being made easy for them and a change will involve more hard work on their behalf. Talk to your wife first, as you will need her backing when addressing the kids. Explain that although you appreciate she works part-time you can’t do everything in the house as well as work. Just as you wouldn’t expect her to do everything. 
Is there any particular chore that you enjoy rather than detest? Offer to share the burden and to work together. 
With regard to your children it is quite natural to want everything that they see, but our duty as parents is to introduce the word no. Kids need to learn from an early age that they can’t have everything that they want, and that most treats are earned, ideally with chores they are currently avoiding. Try being more tactile and understanding so that they instinctively seek you out. I’ve heard so many people complain their parents never said ‘I love you’ or that they felt like a disappointment.
 With regard to your brother borrowing money, you have two choices: a) Lend him the money and consider it a gift never to be returned or b)Tell him no. The revolution starts today!