Ask Amy: Couple hobbles along using their marital crutch

August 19, 2012

DEAR AMY: My two best friends happen to be married to each other and, unfortunately, they are having some serious marital issues.

“Donna” is very unhappy and would like nothing more than to leave this current marriage while her husband, “Manny,” is trying to keep the marriage together.

As their best friend I have already established to both of them that I will refuse to pick sides during this time because I care about them equally.

They are having a hard time living in the same house and communicating with each other in an adult capacity.

They are always taking turns “stabbing” at each other with sarcastic or rude comments. I have known these two for almost 22 years and truly the marriage has always been this constant back and forth.

I have suggested counseling but neither is willing to admit the need for it and the closest thing they get to it is my unbiased ear. I let them say whatever is on their minds without fear of judgment or reprisal from me. I always try to reinforce that any decision that they need to make is their own because they, as adults, should know what is best for them.

Now both of them are considering moving out of their shared home but neither has the financial means to do so. They are falling back on me to provide one of them with a place to live. Neither has officially asked me but I fear this could happen at any moment.

I know it is not my responsibility to take care of them like a parent (although sometimes it feels like I am one to them). I also value my privacy and treasure living alone.

How can I let them know I am not a crutch for their marital problems without jeopardizing our friendship and how do I avoid letting one or the other live with me? -- Tired of Being a Crutch

DEAR TIRED: You have become the third part of a triangle. And triangles never work in a marriage. Marriages are supposed to operate on a flat plane between two (not three) points.

Here’s what you say: “This is above my pay grade. You two need a professional counselor. I can’t help you to fix — or leave — your relationship.”

Their finances are not your issue. Their housing struggle is not yours to fix. Take the possibility of living with you completely off the table by being brave enough to tell them, flat out, that this is not a possibility.

As long as they have you as their sounding board, crutch and escape hatch, they don’t really have to deal with the reality of living within their messy marriage.

DEAR AMY: My wife and I have just learned that my oldest (married) daughter is pregnant with her second child.

My sister insists that we throw the couple a baby shower — again. Of course, for their first child (our grandson, now 6) we hosted a shower.

I am of the opinion that baby showers are reserved for the first child only, not the second, third or fourth.

I have no problem with loved ones and friends giving gifts (or not) as they see fit, but to ask them for a gift via a baby shower invitation is a bit much. Am I wrong? -- Chris

DEAR CHRIS: You are not wrong. But let’s sidestep the question of the shower and go right to the issue of who gets to tell you what to do.

Is your sister the boss of you? No. You could tell her that if she is so desperate for your daughter to have a baby shower, she should host it herself.

DEAR AMY: “Storm of Fears” was wondering whether to break up with his girlfriend over the issue of having children.

When dealing with these big decisions, I imagine sitting in a rocker on my porch on my 90th birthday doing a life review. Would I regret the decision I made to pursue the challenging dream?

Doing this, I’ve made some heartwarming, satisfying decisions that I am very happy about. -- Faithful Reader

DEAR READER: I love this. Thank you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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