Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am lucky enough to have my adult bachelor son (in his 30s) live near me. His father and I are in our late 60s, both self-employed, and have no retirement savings. It was always my dream to have an “equal marriage,” have my own career and be financially independent, but because of the stressful nature of my husband’s business and limited employment opportunities where we live, I ended up working part time and being a support person for the family instead. Because I don’t make much money, I have assumed responsibility for all the cooking and housekeeping throughout my marriage, to make sure I am doing my share. I love having my son nearby, and I invite him to dinner at least once a month. I don’t, however, feel comfortable with him raiding my refrigerator and cupboards and eating up all my leftovers when he stops by uninvited. He works full time and can’t understand why he should have to do all his own cooking and cleaning too. He does not invite us to his house for dinner, though he is sweet about taking me out on my birthday and Mother’s Day. I have invited him to eat with us anytime he is lonely, if he brings a potluck dish. I spend far too much time in the kitchen. I have gardened and cooked healthy, balanced meals for the family for 40 years, which requires a lot of time and work. I feel guilty when I set food limits for my son, and he rubs it in. My husband never backed me up when I tried to set limits for my children, and that attitude has continued. I need some reassurance that my viewpoint is valid. My son has become a workaholic like his father, and he never has time to take care of the homemaking basics. What do you think?

Done In

DEAR DONE IN: Just because you chose to be a homemaker, it doesn’t mean that you are relegated to cook, clean and wait on the family for the rest of your life. You need to convey to your family members that, except for certain hours and under specific conditions, the kitchen is closed.

Tell your son your household’s leftovers from the night before are not his for the taking. The groceries you shopped for and carried home are not community property.

If your son charges into your kitchen and eats the leftovers saved for that day’s meal, then your hard-working husband is just going to have to be hungry for a while. Tell him, “Our son ate your dinner.”

Your son’s choice to manipulate you over this should embarrass him.

DEAR AMY: I’ve been off and on with a guy for 21 years. I love him, but I’ve never met his family or friends. I’m never invited to his home, but he comes to mine (off and on). I’ve tried to break it off with him several times. I’m getting older (we are both 54), and he still does not want to commit. When I don’t hear from him, it hurts me to think he’s with someone else. I’m sure he has someone else in his life. I think sometimes I’m losing my mind, especially when I’m with him. How do I get over him and move on?

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Heartbroken

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: You can be sure that this man has other people — probably several other people (including, possibly, wives and children).

I’m so sorry you are locked into this unhealthy relationship. It obviously makes you miserable.

You already know what you need to do, and that is to leave it completely. Break up, cut off and block all contact.

This will be like giving up nicotine or alcohol. You should ask a close friend or family member to help you through this, to hold your hand and offer you support during those times when you’re feeling down. Counseling would also help.

You were trained to tolerate this by a manipulator. In order to take your power back, you will have to retrain yourself to get away, and stay away.

DEAR AMY: “Heartbroken” is heartbroken because her adult son is moving away. Real heartbreak is when you lose your son to an illness — like I did! Maybe this son has had enough of her smothering! I would tell him to go for it, and get far, far away from this helicopter mother.

Real Heartbreak

DEAR HEARTBREAK: I’m so sorry. And yes — you make an excellent point about perspective. Thank you.