DEAR AMY: My sister "Nancy" has been in an off-and-on relationship with "Sid" (both are 30 years old) for the last eight years. He is from another country, so at times it has been a long-distance situation. A year ago Nancy got pregnant with his baby. Before and throughout her pregnancy, Sid has been verbally abusive and at times a bit physically abusive. He also has cheated and lied to Nancy on more than one occasion. I know he does not like me or my family, but he is always completely charming to our faces. After a brief time apart, Sid is back in my sister's life. I do not wish to have this guy around me, or in my home, but I also don't want to lose my sister and nephew. Am I wrong to feel this way? I want to be supportive of my sister but I've had enough. How do I approach this?
DEAR HAD ENOUGH: There is no such thing as being "a bit" physically abusive. There is only the first shove, which leads to the first slap, which can segue into something worse.
You should make it abundantly clear to both "Nancy" and "Sid" that you are aware of what is going on, and that you are worried about both of them and especially about their child. They should both understand that if you witness any physical fighting, you will call the police.
You should expect both Sid and Nancy to punish you for your willingness to bring this out in the open. Sid will be furious because you know his nasty secret. Your sister may reject all of your efforts to help her because of the complicated nature of her own motives.
You should NOT cut off contact with this family, and as much as you despise Sid, you should not forbid him from visiting your home. If you deny him access, you risk further isolating your sister. If he is charming when he is with you, then all the better.
DEAR AMY: I keep thinking about a response you gave to a woman who wanted to know whether it was worth a "third conversation" with her husband to try to save her marriage ("Checked Out," March 2013). My husband and I lived together for 10 years before we married. I moved in with him the night of our first all-day date. Our first five years were extremely tumultuous, with several separations. We knew we had something but didn't know what to do with it. After we chucked all the crap -- like control, trying to change the other person, dirty fighting, etc. -- we concentrated on building what we knew we could have. We recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! Marriage is not for the faint of heart, but is a third conversation worth it? Totally.
Happy We Prevailed
DEAR HAPPY: Let me borrow from the cheesy Kenny Rogers classic, "The Gambler." When it comes to marriage, you really DO have to know when to hold 'em and (also) know when to fold 'em.
If a couple cling to their own dysfunctional way of relating to each other instead of working hard to make important changes -- as you and your husband did -- then no number of conversations will improve the dynamic. I give you and your husband full props for committing to change in order to make your marriage a good one.
DEAR AMY: Your reply to "Sad," whose boyfriend had the racist and rude family, was lacking in wisdom. You essentially encouraged the writer to play the victim by walking away from the man she loves simply because of his family's behavior. She loses, his family wins. Basically, you have suggested she punish her boyfriend (and herself) for the sins of his family. But she should reject the family while keeping her good man. When her boyfriend is no longer dependent on his family (and perhaps has become her husband), the issue of how to handle his family may be revisited.
Jon S. in Baltimore
DEAR JON: Walking away from a racist family isn't playing the victim -- it's staking a claim about right vs. wrong.