DEAR AMY: My son and daughter-in-law seem to have a lovely relationship. They are on the same page in regard to child-rearing, values, etc. However, I feel that my son shoulders more than his share of the relationship. I always thought this was a mutually accepted situation. Recently my daughter-in-law turned 40. She chose to spend this special day with her friends in NYC (they live in LA). My son and grandchildren were very sad about her choice. My question: It breaks my heart to see my son hurting in this way. He’s such a good person. I want him to feel supported by us, but I don’t want to stick my nose in where it isn’t wanted. My question: Should I just stay out of it or is there something constructive to say?
DEAR UPSET: I’m not sure what you mean when you say that your son shoulders more than his share of the relationship, but yes, it is wisest for you to stay out of this.
You don’t mention your own marital history, but in many functioning marriages, power and responsibility shifts back and forth, based on whatever life stage the couple and their children are in.
I would also say that a spouse who decides to celebrate a milestone birthday literally a continent away from her family is making an unfortunate statement about where she really wants to be (at least on that particular day), but I can also imagine many situations where that choice would be absolutely fine with everyone.
A wise parent expresses sympathy (“Oh, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way.”), but not judgment (“What kind of monster would leave you and the kids?”). Unless there are clear signs of abuse or neglect, you should let your son experience this in his own way and work things out without too much involvement from you.
DEAR AMY: I’m a 28-year-old mother of two kids younger than 6. My spouse is not working. I work full time and support our household while he goes to school. He will finish school by the end of next month and hopefully will get a stable job. I recently caught him sending messages through Facebook to an ex-coworker, asking when they could “kick it.” (She never responded). He’s had a tendency in the past to search for exes on social media, and that makes me feel betrayed and very insecure. I confronted him, and as usual, he denies it and pretends to be the victim. I can easily afford to move out, but it breaks my heart to separate my kids from their father (they really love him and are very attached to him). Plus, I am worried that if I leave him now he will stop pursuing his career and will drop out of school and not complete his last month to graduation, since he will have to work to pay the bills. I just don’t know what to do. I know this is not the way I want to live my life. I love him, but it makes me wonder if he will ever stop?
DEAR BROKEN TRUST: You sound ready to walk out the door over this, but I think you are overreacting. Leaving your marriage is not something to do when you’re upset or disappointed. Ending the marriage with your husband would profoundly affect four lives — and would have the largest impact on your children.
Social media has made it very easy (and tempting) to basically go shopping for company, especially when you’re bored, stressed, or overwhelmed. Rather than deny this, your husband needs to own up to his behavior, apologize to you, and assure you that he wants to be faithfully married. He also needs to understand that this behavior is upsetting, disappointing, disrespectful, and embarrassing (to both of you).
Working this through, honestly, will be best for everyone. Confronting your marital problems is a process you will both have to master.
DEAR AMY: I can’t believe you actually had to counsel “Sale of the Century” to return to a Target store and pay for an item they had (accidentally) not paid for. In this politically correct world, people don’t even know how to do the right thing.
DEAR DISTURBED: I’m not sure what political correctness has to do with this, but even though most of us know what the right thing to do is, we don’t always do it (including me). That’s what makes ethical dilemmas so interesting.