DEAR AMY: Six months ago our oldest daughter’s husband, “John,” walked out on her and their two kids (20 and 15) for another woman. Since he left, it has become obvious he is an alcoholic and not the person we thought him to be. He quit his job. He tells the kids he is trying to get a job, but nothing has panned out. He is not paying any support. My wife has been cooking dinners for our daughter and her kids several nights a week. John did most of the cooking before he left. I have been going along with my wife on this because our daughter is working full time as an office manager for a large company and is sick a lot. We are retired and living on a fixed income. My problem is that our budget has been stretched supplying food for three adults in addition to ourselves. Our daughter has never mentioned compensating us for any of the food and my wife doesn’t want to ask her to. This is straining our marriage, at least for me. I thought that after six months things would approach normal, but with summer ending my wife is still in the kitchen cooking for five and I am steaming. “JoAnn” is not my daughter. I have been her stepfather for 35 years and this contributes to my unease and our challenge in terms of discussing this. Do you have any ideas on how we can resolve this?
Upset in Upland
DEAR UPSET: After 35 years as a stepparent, you have the right to seek a solution to a problem that is bothering you, concerning an issue that directly affects you.
It is kind and generous for your wife to cook for this family. If your daughter is unwell, I can imagine how helpful this would be. Presumably, you don’t object to your wife making this choice.
You and your wife should sit down with your daughter. Offer her your emotional and practical support during this time.
You can say, honestly, that you are worried about the impact on your budget. Is your daughter willing/able to help with grocery bills? She may be able to contribute a nominal amount, and this might make you feel better. She should also take the opportunity to acknowledge your mutual support.
DEAR AMY: I have been friends with “Susan” for about five years. Every time I have a conversation with Susan, she starts to give me unsolicited advice. What bothers me most is when she gives me advice in areas where I have more experience or expertise. For example, my son is 18, while hers is 9. But anytime I talk about the difficulties in raising my teenager, Susan starts to give me advice, even though she has never raised a teenager. I have medical training. If I have a conversation with Susan about a medical issue that is bothering me, she gives me advice about something she knows absolutely nothing about. I have tried to say that I appreciate her advice but that I am not seeking it. I am merely trying to have a conversation. She will apologize. Then a few minutes later she starts with the advice again. I am sick of it. I have already started to distance myself from her and I’m considering ending the friendship all together. Do you have any advice?
Frustrated in NY
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I have a quote over my desk: “Unsolicited advice is always self-serving.” Your friend is leaping in to satisfy her own needs — to be helpful, to be a problem-solver and perhaps to cut short someone she sees as asking for help (or complaining).
You could preface statements by saying, “I don’t want any advice; I’d just like to tell you about this...”
If you can’t both adjust, I agree that your relationship is at risk.
DEAR AMY: “Worried” expressed her concern about her friend, who she is convinced is bipolar. Thank you so much for your response to her that she should not diagnose people. My ex-husband took an online quiz and decided that I was bipolar. I decided to divorce him.
Free at Last
DEAR FREE: Point made. Thank you.