Ask Amy: Elderly couple has put daughter in tough spot

June 2, 2012

DEAR AMY: Some 20 years ago our daughter married a divorced man (he had no children). Though they traveled to our home town to get married in her home church, they’ve lived on the opposite coast ever since they got married.

Each summer the family (now with two children) visited for two months. All was normal!

The husband was a different ballgame. He is controlling, distant, untruthful and negative. He has shown no respect for us, and several times told us what architectural changes he would make to our newly built retirement home. He recited negative stories to our neighbors as well as to our oldest son.

Four years ago, we decided we’d had enough. We told him not to come here again. This, naturally, has put a tremendous strain on our daughter. She is torn between the love for her parents and her duty to her husband and children.

We are afraid to make a move to forgive and forget. We are in our mid-80s and feel we must avoid the strain. We are at an impasse and would like your advice. -- Old but Aware

DEAR AWARE: You have thoroughly outlined a scenario that makes me sympathetic to your daughter and wondering about your choice. You have boxed her in and she is trapped.

I’ll take your word for it that this man is toxic, but you have to create an environment where your daughter can come in out of the cold in order to spend more time with you.

She has been married to him for 20 years, and she seems to want to stay with him, and because you live all the way across the country, it’s not like she can just pop in for a quick visit.

Having a more constant and less stressful relationship will be good for everyone. Ask your daughter to help you to broker a peace settlement. Make amends, and this may prompt him to follow suit. This should ease the strain for all of you.

DEAR AMY: I’d like some feedback from you and your readers.

If I meet 100 people, I hit it off with two or three of them and launch a friendship, some 96-97 of them have no particular reaction to me, and then every now and then someone just takes an instant disliking to me — without my ever speaking a word to them.

What’s up with this? Do other people have this experience or is it just me?

I’m too embarrassed to ask my friends. -- Socially Curious

DEAR CURIOUS: I’m not sure how you can discern that someone has an instant disliking to you if you’ve never spoken, though I have seen this logic before.

I once went on a date with a gentleman who said that he didn’t like alcohol and proudly reported that he had never so much as tasted one drink. “Well, if you’ve never tasted it, how do you know you don’t like it?” I asked him. “I just know,” he said.

Do the math. If you have a 3 percent friendship yield, I’d say you were doing well. Readers may want to weigh in.

DEAR AMY: “Missing My Friends” wrote about being disappointed when he stopped initiating contact with two close friends and they did not pick up the slack. I was a lazy friend like that.

I had a friend who went out of town frequently, and would call when she returned. I never initiated contact. Once, a long time passed without hearing from her and even then I didn’t call; assuring myself she would call me.

She finally did call, and when we got together, I discovered she’d been in town for a couple of months and was about to leave town again for an extended period the next day. I realized I was about to fall off her friendship radar due to my laziness. It was a major wake-up call for me.

I began initiating more contact and letting her know I valued her friendship and wanted to stay connected. Your advice to Missing, to turn his attention toward people who were better at friendship, was good. -- A Better Friend Now

DEAR BETTER: Thank you for sharing your wake-up call.

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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