Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: Our family has a problem. We wonder what to do about the man who in all likelihood will soon be the husband of my stepdaughter, who is 30 years old. No one likes the way he treats her -- he is condescending and close to being emotionally abusive. Also, he is a complete jerk. The problem is that she thinks he walks on water, which has us all perplexed, because she is bright and beautiful and no one can imagine what she sees in this guy. He is over the top in being complimentary to her but he pretty much has the final say in whom they see and what they do. We are deathly afraid that if we even mention how we feel about this clown, she will cut us off. What should we do?

Upset Step

DEAR UPSET: Being condescending is not the same as being "emotionally abusive." Being a jerk or a clown does not make him a danger to your stepdaughter's well-being. Your not liking him does not mean that she can't choose to love him or marry him.

The red flag I see here is that, according to you, he dominates her and controls what they do with their time. Unfortunately she could easily interpret your expression of concern as a desire on your part to dominate or control her.

You cannot pick your stepdaughter's friends and partners. She is an adult. She might have unrefined, immature or flat-out terrible taste in partners. This might be an expression of deep insecurity on her part.

If she announces they are getting married, you should tell her, "We cannot pick your husband for you. Our dream for you is to marry someone who treats you as an equal partner, because marriage requires respect, compromise and tons of work on both sides. We worry because he seems to dominate you." Don't offer any opinion on his looks, character or personality.

Make sure she knows that you are her family, now and forever, and that you will always be in her corner, no matter what. If this is the guy she ultimately chooses to marry, then you'll have to deal with both of them.

DEAR AMY: The other day I told my fiance that I had cheated on him. We had been going through a very rough time and I thought we were going to break up. It only happened once. I wound up getting pregnant (with my fiance) and I didn't want to ruin what we were rebuilding. After our son was born things got so much better between us and we got engaged. I couldn't be happier, but the guilt was eating me alive and that's why I finally came clean. The weird thing is, he said he wasn't mad or upset, but just a little shocked. I know I should be grateful that he's taking it so well, but I can't help but feel he's bottling it all up inside and then one day when we get into a fight it's going to be thrown back at me. Should I be concerned that he's taking it so well?

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Confused but Grateful

DEAR CONFUSED: It's possible that your guy is responding this way because he also cheated and now he feels off the hook.

Do you want to confront him with this idea? (I hope not -- no good would come of it.) Tell him, "I feel so much better because I was honest. Are you sure you're OK with what happened? If you are upset about it, we should deal with it now, because I want to put this behind us and start fresh together."

DEAR AMY: In your response to "Happy We Prevailed" you quoted from "The Gambler." I agree that in marriage you do have to "know when to hold 'em" and also "know when to fold 'em." I would go further in relation to "Sad," whose sister had an abusive partner. In some marriages it is important to "know when to walk away" and "know when to run."

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Brilliant! Thank you for the smile -- and the wisdom.