Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everyone's business. My grandmother recently told me that the father of her son-in-law is not his biological father. She told me her son-in-law's mother had an affair, resulting in her getting pregnant. Once I found out about this, it made perfect sense. The son-in-law, who is an uncle of mine, looks nothing like his brothers and the man who raised him treated him very differently than he did the rest of the kids. On his deathbed the man who raised him told my uncle he wasn't his son. Of course my uncle took it very hard. Should I tell my uncle what I know so that he can confront his own mother and maybe get some closure, or should I keep this secret?

Conflicted Niece

DEAR NIECE: According to your narrative, your uncle already knows that the man who raised him is not his biological father. I'm not sure why your grandmother is choosing to disclose this news to you just now, but one response to this oversharing would be, "Wow, Gran -- this sounds so private. Why are you telling me this?" While I completely agree with the idea of reducing a secret's power by exposing it to light, you are too tangential to this story to get appropriately involved.

If you continue to be concerned about your uncle, you should urge the family member who is closest to him to talk to him. I'm not sure his mother-in-law is the right person for the job.

DEAR AMY: My sister has been engaged for the past year and has everything planned for a wedding this summer. However, her fiance has recently contacted her to let her know he is no longer interested in marrying her. My sister is distraught, but we have a four-month window to cancel the hotel, the band, etc., and still recoup a large portion of the deposit money. My sister does not want us to cancel anything. She has told us multiple times that if we cancel the wedding, she won't have the opportunity to fix this broken relationship, and she will wind up never getting married. She is having a very hard time coming to terms with her current situation. Meanwhile, her fiance has moved out of their home and is living with a friend. If we do not cancel the venue we stand to lose many thousands of dollars, but we still want to support my sister. What is the right thing to do?


DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Your sister has irrationally linked two things that in reality have no connection: something as relatively inconsequential as a wedding venue, and something extremely painful and important -- the breakup of her relationship.

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Whoever paid the deposits for the venue, band, etc., should cancel immediately. I suggest saying to your sister, "We need to cancel these plans this week, so I'm going to start making calls. If you revive your plans, we'll do our best to pick up where we left off." Retrieving deposits allows the family to save this money, in the fresh hope that your sister will eventually walk down the aisle. While you should all feel very sympathetic toward her, your family should not allow your sister to emotionally blackmail you to the tune of thousands of dollars. Canceling these plans might give her an incentive to start healing from this major disappointment.

DEAR AMY: "Wondering" was wrestling with midlife ennui. A few years ago I semiretired and saw myself becoming a couch potato. I knew I had to do something, so I checked out volunteering. It is the best thing I ever did. Wondering has a wonderful life but finds herself bored and restless. She should look into volunteer programs in her area. There are so many programs that need your help, and many have flexible hours that you can work into your schedule. Hope she checks this out.

No Couch for Me!

DEAR NO COUCH: Great advice.