Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My in-laws are loving, generous people. Several times a year we travel several hours to visit and let them dote on their grandson. The problem is their neighbor. Whenever we visit, the neighbor comes over -- even during holiday gatherings. This is only a problem for us because both my wife and I find this man deplorable. He drinks, curses, complains and is generally unpleasant. The last straw was witnessing the neighbor being verbally abusive to his children. My wife spoke to her father, explained the reason, and asked that our visits be family-only. Things were better for a while, but then the neighbor started showing up again and the in-laws openly welcome him. It's clear that my in-laws like this neighbor. My wife and I realize we cannot dictate who is allowed in their house. We don't want to stop visiting, but I've started feeling resentful. What should we do?


DEAR CONCERNED: Given that you have already made your preference known, you'll have to try harder to tolerate this person while you are a guest in the in-laws' home. It's akin to dealing with an awful family member -- you tolerate behavior or you attach consequences and follow through.

Eventually you may have to state to your in-laws: "We realize we cannot control who spends time in your home. But we really don't want our child to be exposed to this type of behavior, and so we're going to exit when he comes around." You are not telling them what to do, but you are simply being very clear about your own intentions. I hope you encourage your in-laws to visit your home.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I have two adult daughters. We've experienced ups and downs in our long marriage. Four years ago, we got hit with the downturn of the economy and my husband lost his job. Unfortunately, instead of looking for work he decided to sit around until his unemployment benefits ran out. Then he moved several states away because he wanted to be in a band. I agreed to follow him, but by the time we had sold the house he had already come back, because he couldn't find a job and had a falling out with a band mate. It took him another year to get a job at a retail store -- after I forced him (I also work). We talked about moving to the West Coast. My sister just moved there, and our daughters and I like the idea of living there. Now he doesn't want to move because he found a band to join here in our hometown. But they plan to play only two or three times a month. He is only working 30 hours a week (or less). I am aware that he cannot afford to live on his own. I tried to talk to him about this, but he always tells me to look at the big picture. I am not sure what big picture I'm supposed to be looking at. Should I go or wait?

Patient Wife

DEAR WIFE: The big picture looks like this: Your husband chose to relocate and you (evidently) supported his choice by selling the house and planning to follow him.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Well, now it's your turn. You two should discuss a timeline for a move. There are bands to join on the West Coast (check Craigslist). If your husband can't financially make it on his own, then he should be even more motivated to join your family out west.

DEAR AMY: The letter from "Sad" made me sad. This was about a father who had had almost no contact with his 3-year-old child. I suspect that the child's father is dejected and exhausted from trying to get access to his child with an uncooperative mother.

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: This is certainly possible, but the dad refused to discuss it with his concerned girlfriend, so I suspect the reason lies at least partially with his own behavior as a father.