DEAR AMY: This will be my fifth holiday season since I left a suffocating, controlling, verbally abusive ex. In the time since then we have gone to court multiple times due to his desire to renegotiate our financial settlement in order to get more money from me. He has lost every case. Every year, at this time, he writes an epic diatribe against me — the liar and the coward who left — blaming me for the debt he has taken on for vacations, cars, laptops, etc. He copies all of our kids, his in-laws and others in his vicious onslaught. It is hurtful and relentless. He tells lies — or distorted half-truths. This year he used work email (we both work for the county). I want to complain to human resources, but I don’t want to be responsible for him losing his job. His nasty-grams are mostly ignored by our children but have become an invisible wall between me and my oldest child, who never wants to hear my side. This leaves a hole in my heart. Can you please advise me on how best to deal with this? — Wishing He’d Let Me Go
DEAR WISHING: Well, this puts a whole new twist on the obnoxious holiday letter. Do not respond to this email or any others, but print them out and keep them. You say that you don’t want your ex to be fired, but where I work, using company email to harass anyone — not to mention a fellow employee — is grounds for firing, although the road to termination might lead through mandatory counseling sessions (which he obviously needs). I don’t think you should protect your ex from the consequences of his actions. If he lost his job over this, HE — not you — would be responsible for his firing. Your ex seems to enjoy going to court. The next time he sees a courtroom it might be to answer to a harassment charge. You should contact a lawyer or agency where you live to see if his actions sink to the level of qualifying for a “no contact” order. You should not feel compelled to defend yourself to those who receive these “nasty-grams,” but you should express sorrow that they are on the receiving end. Reach out to your oldest, offering to talk about it whenever he/she is ready.
DEAR AMY: I am 70 and have been a widow for 30 years. I am a very independent person who worked hard and put my children through college. Both children live in town and I often babysit their six children and their pets, sometimes for a week at a time. I have reached an age where things like carrying a 50-pound bag of salt or a jug of water softener to the basement is difficult for me. I seldom ask directly for help. When I do ask I get this response, “Can I do it next time I visit?” I do all my own painting, cleaning, yard work, and hire a maintenance man for the rest. If any adult children are wondering what to get their aging parents for Christmas, how about just a little of your time? We would love that! — Tired
DEAR TIRED: I love your gift idea. I also hope you will be just a little more assertive. If one of your children asks, “Can I do it next time I visit?” (a very reasonable question, by the way), you could be honest and say, “I feel like this can’t really wait.” It’s a good idea to try to schedule chores for when you know they will be with you — it might also be effective to remind them that the last time they asked you to watch the kids, you didn’t respond by saying, “Can this wait?”
DEAR AMY: I’m sorry but the letter from “Disappointed Dad” seemed like a lot of whining to me. If he wants to see his grandchildren, he and his wife should go to visit them! — Active Grandparents
DEAR GRANDPARENTS: “Disappointed Dad” had his own elderly parents to take care of. Inviting the grandkids to visit them for a couple of weeks during the summer would be a good idea.