Mother-in-law causing a rift in the family – Chicago Tribune – Help US

Dear Amy: My mother-in-law is causing a rift in the family that’s hurting my husband.

We haven’t been married long, and his divorce was a contentious one. His ex managed to delay every step of the divorce, and went after everything she could, including the house, which he ended up leaving to her just to bring the proceedings to an end.

My husband cried when he told his parents years ago how unhappy he was in the marriage, and his mother’s response was only, “How will this affect the grandchildren?”

While they were divorcing, she took the grand “children” (they’re twins in their early 20s) and their mother to Disney World!

Most recently, she took her grandchildren out to dinner on their birthday with – you guessed it – the ex, and not her son/us.

He and I have asked her and the rest of his family to wean off from socializing with the ex.

My MIL claims she’s afraid the ex will cut her and her husband off from their grandchildren because the ex is very manipulative and the twins are very immature (they don’t drive, live with their mom, and have no life).

The rest of the extended family has respected our wishes to cut ties with the ex, but not my MIL, and this has been very hurtful to my husband.

He feels like he doesn’t have his own parents’ support. (His father is passive and let’s his wife do whatever she wants.)

Please advise us on what we can do.

We do not want this dynamic to continue.

– Disturbed

Dear Disturbed: The way you describe this situation, your husband’s ex is the gatekeeper, controlling access to his grown children – or at least, your mother-in-law perceives it that way.

Ongoing contact with your husband’s ex makes you uncomfortable, but you can’t insist that it stop. Unless your mother-in-law is inviting the ex to family events, forcing her into proximity with you and your husband, you really have no say in how she chooses to conduct this relationship.

Your husband should work on maintaining a relationship with his sons. If he has a good relationship with them, his mother might not have to go through his ex to spend time with her grandsons.

Dear Amy: My friend, “Candace” consistently says things about herself that just aren’t accurate. For example, she drinks over two bottles of wine every night and then trash talks a friend of hers for drinking too much.

She’ll say things like, “I like my wine, but I’m not an alcoholic like “Shelley,” or, “Shelley drinks too much and gets argumentative” (Candace does, too!).

I don’t say anything, but I believe that she might take my silence as agreement.

I know we are all, including myself, guilty of not seeing ourselves as we really are.

Do you have any suggestions on how to respond or push back politely when this happens consistently with someone – or is just being silent the best way to go?

– Biting My Tongue

Dear Biting: If your friend “Candace” consistently talks about her friend “Shelley’s” drinking, this would provide an opening for you to segue to her drinking. She might be bringing up this topic as a sort of a trial balloon – testing the waters to see if you will react.

The way to bring this up is to be respectful, concerned, frank, and fair: “I know that ‘Shelley’s’ drinking bothers you, but I have to be honest and say that your drinking worries me.”

The most important aspect of discussing your friend’s drinking is for you to detach from your own desired outcome. Candace will not suddenly smack her head in awareness and run toward recovery.

Ask Amy

Ask Amy


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Denial is a powerful side effect of addiction. The alcoholic needs to believe that their addiction serves them. The silence of friends and family members perpetuates the fiction: There’s nothing to see here!

Dear Amy: “Bothered in the Bridal Party” felt slighted because his friend the groom demoted him from being “best man” at his wedding and then jokingly referred to him as his “best man,” while calling the replacement best man (and future brother-in-law), as the “better man.”

I think both of you failed to catch the joke, which is that the “better” man is the lesser of these options: Good man, better man, best man.

The brother-in-law is the target of this jab.

– A Fan

Dear Fan: I think you cracked the code (yes, I missed it), and I hope this “best man” can see it this way.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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