DEAR AMY: Our well-educated, 33-year-old son is planning to marry a 30-year-old woman in two months. She is extremely quiet and talks only when asked a direct question. She doesn't cook, clean, buy groceries or do any household chores. Our son does everything. She is an only child and is extremely focused on her appearance. Our son used to be well groomed, outgoing, fun-loving and thoughtful. He is now very quiet and doesn't interact with family anymore unless we initiate contact. His appearance has gotten incredibly sloppy. The wedding is coming up, and we are concerned about his happiness. We think he is settling and may be depressed. We definitely don't think he acts like someone who is in love and excited about building a life with this woman. We don't want to comment for fear he'll take it as criticism and cut off all contact, so we haven't said anything. Is there anything we can do, or do we just need to stand by and watch this happen?--Concerned Parents
DEAR CONCERNED: A common tactic of abusers is to isolate a partner from friends and family. Do your utmost to keep the door open, even if your contact is limited.
This does not mean you have to stand by passively. Be honest and loving and express your concern, without casting blame or judgment.
His fiancée might be an abuser, the two of them might be using or abusing alcohol or drugs, he might be addicted to online gaming, sleep deprived for other reasons, depressed or stressed.
As parents, you know your son intimately. You see changes that worry you. So you say, "Son, are you OK? You seem quite depressed and stressed and we're worried about you. You don't seem like yourself lately. What's going on with you?" Do not make any comments about his partner or suggest that he is "settling." Stay as close as you can to this couple -- but express your concern, privately, to your son.