DEAR AMY: Our son married a girl who is emotionally abusive. She has one child from a previous relationship and they now have a child together. We try to keep a relationship going with them and with both grandchildren. She constantly threatens our son with divorce. She shows no restraint when it comes to yelling at him and the kids in front of us. She has cut us off several times for things she perceived that we have no recollection of happening. We end up apologizing, just so we can have a relationship, even though her accusation is unfounded. She limits our son seeing us. Apparently, she tracks where he is by his cellphone, and if he’s at our house, after about 10 minutes she’s railing on him to come home. We suspect she monitors his text messages. Our son doesn’t confront her because he wants an intact family for his children. He also says she’ll make his life miserable. He has an executive-level job and they live a very nice lifestyle. He doesn’t complain to us often, but when he does, our hearts break. We never drop in on them because we were told that she doesn’t like that. She has a lot of rules. But, when she needs a favor (such as time to get a manicure), she will ask us to baby-sit, which we happily do. There are times when she is very nice to us. Do you have any advice on how to keep the relationship with her going, so that she doesn’t punish us by withdrawing our grandchildren?
DEAR SAD: By your account, your son is being isolated and controlled by his abusive wife. She also controls you, using contact with your grandchildren as a way to keep you in line. Understand that if she wants to exert power over you, she will remove access to them, no matter what you do.
You cannot make your son’s choices for him, but you can refuse to be controlled.
Don’t let your daughter-in-law use the kids as a weapon. This means that you will need to face the possibility of not seeing them for a time.
If she berates your son or her children in your presence, say to her, “Stop it, please.” Confront her and say, “We’re not going to stay here and witness this. We’re leaving.”
If she refuses to let you see the children, maintain a neutral attitude: “That’s too bad; we’re sorry to hear that. If you change your mind or ever need a hand, let us know. We’re always available.”
Privately, you should tell your son that he is in an abusive marriage and that you hope he will exit (with his child). Offer him tons of support, encouragement and practical help to leave when he is ready, but accept that he may choose to stay.
DEAR AMY: I have been at my job for 10 years. I work in shipping, and I don’t see any way that I can move up the corporate ladder at the company I’m in. I have been thinking of just leaving and moving to another state. I think things might be better if I start anew with my wife and two children. I am computer-literate, with an associate degree. I don’t want to continue in shipping anymore, but I don’t receive job offers outside of shipping because of my experience. Should I quit and move on?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: I don’t think it’s wise to quit your job and move, unless you have substantial savings or support in your new location. Your long-standing work experience might dictate your job prospects wherever you are. Moving will also have a substantial impact on your family.
You should pursue any company-training programs available to you, and if you have a mentor, you should solicit their advice about advancement within the company.
You could also try to change directions through further education. Keep up your computer skills, and take classes related to your area of interest.
Develop and brush up your networking skills, online through sites like linkedin.com, and in person through community connections.
DEAR AMY: I was dismayed by your response to “Not Water Logged,” who was concerned about people using too much water while taking showers. Here in California, we have mastered the “military shower,” and after our extreme drought, I am now extra-conscious of not wasting water.
DEAR CONSERVING: I hear you. I suggested that this concerned citizen should work with her aquatic center to develop conservation strategies, but not to scold people in the shower.