DEAR AMY: My mother-in-law, “Jane,” is an alcoholic. She underwent surgery in 2015 and got a new liver and kidney, after being on dialysis and nearly losing her life. Jane didn’t drink for a while after that, but in the last seven or eight months we have noticed that she seems to be drinking again. Not only is she drinking, but her behavior seems strange. She is in her 60s and recently got two tattoos; she has stolen things from my home while my husband and I were there, and she has been spending my father-in-law’s money to buy random things online. He tries to cut her off from his bank accounts but always gives in. She opens credit cards in her own name, buys frivolous things, and throws away the statements, with no intention of making payments. My husband I do not trust her to be around our children. It’s hard for me to bite my tongue when she makes off-the-wall comments, and frankly I do not care to be around her at all. Although my husband’s entire family knows her behavior is not normal, no one says or does anything about it. I’m not one to shut out family, but I don’t want my kids to be around this. Am I wrong to want to distance myself and my children from her?
DEAR BOTHERED: I’m not sure how your mother-in-law’s tattoos or erratic spending habits would impact your children, but this is up to you two parents. Obviously, she should not be with children unless you are present.
I sense that you might be using access to your kids to launch your campaign to get someone — anyone — in this family to wake up and smell the booze.
Sometimes it takes an “outsider” (an in-law, for instance, who didn’t grow up in this enabling family system) to shine a torchlight on the obvious.
What you can’t do is be a one-woman rescue squad, mainly because these enabling family members will undermine and undo your efforts, possibly in very creative ways.
You can ask your mother-in-law: “Jane, I sense that you are drinking and hope you will get help to stop.”
You and your husband should attend Al-Anon meetings (al-anon.org). He, especially, will continue to wrestle with conflicted feelings regarding both of his parents’ behavior.
DEAR AMY: My fiance recently told me that an old college friend sent him a Facebook friend request. Turns out, the “friend” is a woman — someone he used to hook up with. I actually thought it was a great idea for them to reconnect, because as he has aged and lost touch with so many friends (we are in our mid-50s). A few days later, he told me he had a dream that they were meeting in Florida. I felt this was untruthful, and I secretly checked his text messages only to discover that they have been texting and making plans to meet for dinner. When I confronted him, he said I’m being paranoid and that this is an innocent dinner between friends who haven’t seen each other in 30 years. I’m just not buying it, because he didn’t tell me about this contact until confronted. He has since said that he won’t go to the dinner, but I think this is most likely BS too. I work at night and don’t have a way to know if he goes or not — unless I go snooping again. We are supposed to get married in four months, and I’m semi-freaking out. Am I overreacting?
DEAR ANXIOUS: I can see why you are anxious. It would be easy for your guy to renew his friendship, while also building trust with you. All he has to do is to be honest about his plans, and include you as his partner. He is sneaky and you are snooping — and this is no way to start a marriage. Talk about it.
DEAR AMY: I wonder whether the “Shutout” parents that wrote in about their son’s estrangement have done some real self-reflection to see their part in what has happened. I am estranged from my mother. I endured years of emotional manipulation, bullying and undermining. I tried talking to her about it numerous times without success, but to this day she says she still doesn’t understand why I’ve stopped contact. These parents might be the common factor after all; not the son’s new girlfriend. I hope they take a good look at themselves.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Absolutely.