DEAR AMY: My 40-year-old son is in an abusive marriage. His wife hits him, locks him out of the house, calls him humiliating names, has alienated him from his friends and family, etc. He has lost 70 pounds and developed dangerous stress-related symptoms. He’s a shell of what he once was. He acts confused and disoriented, rather than our smart, capable and popular son. It’s heartbreaking. He has tried to leave her, but she gets hysterical, threatens suicide and begs him to return. He gives in. They have two small children who witness this abuse. He’s very worried about the kids, but is so broken down he doesn’t feel capable of caring for them on his own. We’ve told him we will care for them, but he tells us it’s too much of a burden. She refused to attend counseling after one session. My son continues to go on his own. It’s hard for us to be good in-laws when we’re aware of this. She often blows up at us if we try to talk about it. We are sick with worry about our son.
DEAR MOM: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 7 men (older than 18) in the United States has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Your focus should be on your son’s health and self-esteem, and on providing a safe place for the children. His weight loss and other symptoms are alarming, and you should encourage him to get a thorough physical checkup and mental health screening. If he isn’t making progress in therapy, you should help him to find one that specializes in working with abused men.
You should develop a safety plan with your son. Encourage him to take the children, leave the house and call the police.
Make sure he knows that you will take them in and not judge him for his choices. When he says, “This is too much of a burden for you,” that’s his shame talking. Reassure him that you can and will help.
Many abused people return to their abuser, again and again. This is heartbreaking. Understand that if you ban your daughter-in-law from your home, it could isolate your son and the children further.
Encourage your son to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to talk to a counselor: 800-799-7233 (thehotline.org). Thehotline.org also offers online chat sessions during the day, where you or your son can discreetly communicate with a counselor.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently moved into a nice community. I wake up feeling happy every day. Our neighbor moved in a month after us, and she seemed to be friendly. Whenever she runs into us, she will start talking, but she will only look at my husband and will never have eye contact with me. She won’t have any kind of direct conversation with me. I am Asian-American, and my husband is an American. I wonder if her behavior has anything to do with me being Asian? I even tried to bring her some cookies and a loaf of homemade bread. My gesture did not seem to change her attitude toward me. Last week we had an association meeting. She said hello to my husband and did not even acknowledge my existence, even after I said hello, loudly, to her. My husband told me to just ignore her, but I wonder what I can do to find out why she is afraid of me. Is it because I am Asian?
DEAR WORRIED: Your neighbor might be racist. Or sexist. Or ... strange.
I don’t know what’s going on with her, but I do know this: The harder you try to win her over, the worse you might feel.
The best thing to do is not to make any particular assumptions about your neighbor, and politely disregard her.
If this continues to drive you crazy, you could ask her, “I notice you never speak directly to me when we run into you; why is that?”
DEAR AMY: “Crier” was worried about ruining her son’s upcoming wedding with ever-flowing tears. I have the same problem! When my youngest got married, I actually did exactly as you suggested. I “practiced” by playing the mother-son dance song over and over, crying each time. By the time the wedding day arrived, I was cried out.
Worked for Me
DEAR WORKED: I’ve received many suggestions from readers. Thanks for this.