DEAR AMY: My wife of 20 years surrendered her daughter, “Betsy” for adoption 30 years ago. My wife and I were reunited with Betsy 10 years ago and have become very close, although Betsy lives in a different state. Betsy and her adoptive parents have become estranged over the past few years. So now Betsy wants to divorce her current adoptive parents because of what she feels are irreconcilable differences, and for (future) legal reasons that also involve her daughter (who is 8 years old). The adoptive parents considered her their granddaughter, of course. Now Betsy is asking my wife and her biological father, who has been out of the picture for 30 years, to become her new adoptive parents. I’m very open-minded, but something doesn’t feel quite right. At first, I thought this recognition was a nice idea, but now I feel that to go before a judge and make a public statement that she and Betsy’s biological father are now adoptive parents, puts me in an uncomfortable position. I really have no idea what the legal ramifications might be for me and my wife, but really, the fact that a public statement is being made between the daughter’s biological parents is what makes me most uncomfortable. To complicate the matter further, my wife and I also have children together, and we both have children from a previous marriage. Do you think I am being an oversensitive territorial male?
No Prior Precedent
DEAR NO PRIOR: You are not being oversensitive. “Betsy” is not being sensitive enough. As your wife’s long-time husband and father to the children you two have together (and the children you had before your marriage), you detect a challenge to these relationships.
I agree that this puts you in a vulnerable spot, and you should be very honest about your reaction to it.
Check your state laws regarding adult adoption. Some states require a spouse to sign a form approving the adoption. You and your wife should see an attorney regarding all of the legal ramifications to this adoption, for you and your entire family circle (including all of your collective children, as well as her child).
Additionally, you and your wife should see a family counselor to discuss the impact on you and your children. If “Betsy” manipulates your wife or pressures her for the adoption to be done very quickly, you should be skeptical about her motives. Do not agree to this in haste.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for 34 years. My husband has a thing about being interrupted when he’s talking. He gets very angry and will say, “I’m talking!” in a very rude manner. I never intend to interrupt him, but sometimes in a conversation, it just happens. His response, and the way he delivers it, is embarrassing and hurtful. He has also said, “Stifle!” to me in the past, although I think I have gotten the message across to him that this is unacceptable. What should I do?
DEAR EMBARRASSED: You are not responsible for your husband’s rudeness. You are responsible for your own rudeness. And so — the very first thing you should do is to make a more concerted effort not to interrupt people. It is a very tough habit to break, but tackling this will make you a better listener, and will change the dynamic in many of your relationships.
The next time you are aware that you are interrupting him, you should put your hand on his arm, make eye contact, and say, “I’m sorry for interrupting; I realize you didn’t finish your thought.” This is meant to model respectful behavior, which your husband needs to adopt.
When you two discuss this issue, you should let him know that he is not Archie Bunker, and you are not Edith. Nobody needs to be told to “stifle.” When he embarrasses you, he really embarrasses himself.
“Honey, you’re interrupting,” or “Hang on and let me finish what I was saying” are sufficient corrections.
DEAR AMY: “Concerned Mom” described her challenging relationship with her daughter. Both mother and daughter are bipolar. I learned a lot and was helped by the good people at NAMI — the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I found a local support group, and now I don’t feel so alone.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I applaud the work of NAMI.org in advocating for people with mental illness. They have launched an app called NAMI Air, which is a social network to help people connect with one another.