DEAR AMY: My friend is an alcoholic. Sometimes she tries to stop drinking. In addition to the alcohol, she seems to be addicted to an abusive relationship. When she is with the man, he verbally and physically abuses her, and she calls friends and parents for help, apparently truly frightened for her life. He has threatened her family, too. He is a scary guy. If someone steps up to rescue her, she plays with getting sober, may or may not find work, etc. Then the guy calls her, threatens to have her arrested on ridiculous charges, and "forces" her to return to him. This cycle repeats itself. When she is sober and away from him, she appears to see how destructive the relationship is. But he always sucks her back in. How can I (and her other family) help, other than prayer? Do we continue to "rescue"? Do we leave her with him, knowing she could end up dead?
Longtime, Worried Friend
DEAR WORRIED FRIEND: This is an exercise in powerlessness and patience.
You cannot physically remove your friend from this abusive relationship, and so your task is to love her as much and as well as you can — patiently and without judgment.
Enabling can sometimes feel like rescue, and you should learn the difference. But yes, when she reaches out for "rescue," you should do your best to respond.
Tell her you are worried about her. Tell her you are there for her. Tell her this doesn't change the way you feel about her. Ask her if she is ready to get professional help, and then have the address and number for the Domestic Violence Hotline on hand: thehotline.org (or call 800-799-7233).
DEAR AMY: My daughter is 32 years old. She and my son-in-law tied the knot recently after six years together. He was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer last year. They lived 700 miles away from us, but recently moved back home. He is doing well with his treatments and is progressing better than expected. I am sure my daughter being present and supportive is a huge part of his medical success. She didn't work before he was diagnosed — and still doesn't. He has been able to continue to work throughout, so they are solid financially. People often ask me what she "does." Does she work outside the home? No. She works in her home; she's a housewife. She takes care of the house, her husband, their animals, etc. I find myself being dumbfounded by the responses I get when I tell people that. Where is it written that a woman has to work outside the home to be valuable? I am becoming defensive. How can I answer this question differently in order to get a different reaction? It really irritates me. What's wrong with being a housewife or a stay-at-home mom? I would have loved to be able to do what she's doing.
Stumped in Alabama
DEAR STUMPED: Many moons ago, (pre-child), I interrupted my career for a period where I spent my time taking care of myself, husband, hearth and home.
When asked what I did for a living, I would respond that I was a "housewife," which seemed to annoy people, who tended to respond with a version of: "Oh, I'm sure you're not just a housewife."
I think the term "housewife" is loaded for some people because it describes someone who is defining herself through an inanimate object (house) and another person (wife). But I liked the term, partly because I liked the life. When my "housewife" descriptor bugged people, I would correct it and say, "Sorry, I mean 'domestic engineer."'
It is NOT written anywhere that a person must define their value only outside the home. I was raised by a hardworking and professionally successful single mother, who always said her favorite and most rewarding job was during those years when she was exclusively tending to home and family.
You cannot change the way people react to the way you describe your daughter's life.
The point is that no one who likes her honest, productive and fulfilling life should feel the need to apologize for it.
Nor should you.
DEAR AMY: A woman signing her letter "Protected Secret" wondered how to disclose her long-ago rape to her fiance. Thank you so much for your compassionate answer. I had a similar dark secret and chose to disclose it through writing a letter, which I asked my boyfriend to read. He is now my husband.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I like your approach.