DEAR AMY: My husband and I are aware that our daughter-in-law has been cheating on our son for over a year. The person she is cheating with is also a "friend" of our son. We are afraid to say anything because we have no hardcore proof, such as photographs or tapes. Our son is very trusting and there is no way he will believe us without such proof. If we tell him, the end result will be that we won't be permitted to see our grandchildren, and perhaps our son as well. We are devastated. The level of lies and deceit is astounding. I am trying just to look the other way, but this is becoming more and more difficult. Can you give us advice to help us deal with this?
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Investigating your daughter-in-law in search of hardcore proof of her infidelity is an offensive concept. If you see something with your own eyes, then you should tell your son what you saw ("On Tuesday we saw Carol and Steve walking into the Notell Motel together, hand in hand"), but not draw conclusions for him. If someone else has direct knowledge, then that person (not you) should respond.
You know your son intimately. Would he want to know about your suspicions? From what you say, the answer probably is "no." It is most ethical to act in a way that causes the least harm. If you know without a shadow of a doubt that the children are somehow at risk, then you must act. However, if you simply want to prove what a dishonest, wretched woman your son is married to -- or if your son's being a chump embarrasses you (or him) -- then no, you should not act.
It is wisest to stay out of other people's marriages. This is not ignoring unethical behavior -- it is making a determination that you don't know everything that goes on between two people and that you won't interfere unless there is very clear danger.
If your son is locked in an abusive relationship, then the most important thing is to keep the door open to him -- free of shame or blame -- so he always knows he has a safe space to land with his children.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 18 months. Our former spouses each died five years ago. During holidays he still insists on going to the home of his deceased wife's family, because that's where his children will be. I go to my family celebrations alone. I have created celebration times at our house and have included his children, but he still goes to the home of their mother's family during holidays, instead of mine. This hurts me deeply and I recently told him how I feel about this, but he thinks I just don't understand.
DEAR BEREAVED: You and your husband are undertaking a major life transition in the wake of loss. You should be patient with each other and with his kids (who I assume are adults). Understand that it might be painful for his late wife's family to invite you to things; your husband is going to have to help pave the way.
Take things slowly. Don't compete with their mother's family for their time during holidays. Ask your husband to help you get to know his late wife's family and invite them to join you for a backyard barbeque in your home with the kids. A good compromise is to understand that the two of you will occasionally be with your respective families, but over time you will build a home together that is at the center of your celebrations.
DEAR AMY: "Hungry for Decision" described a young man who doesn't want to let his girlfriend's parents express their generosity (and their respect for their daughter's choice of a companion) by treating him to dinner. This guy ranks in the doofus range for social skills. His churlishness bodes ill for the relationship's future. Why can't he enjoy the occasion, then at a later time reciprocate with an appropriate thank-you gift?
DEAR POLITE: Indeed.