Ask Amy: Ex-wife’s choice of boyfriend worries family

July 4, 2012

DEAR AMY: Last fall, my ex-wife started Internet dating. After meeting a guy once or twice, she wanted to bring him home to meet the kids. Our children (ages 13, 20 and 21) were against meeting him, saying it was too soon.

I begged her to do a background check on this guy, and she refused, saying she was an excellent judge of character.

After she had been seeing him for a couple months, I did the background check, and the guy has an extensive record, including arrests for domestic violence (one guilty plea) and a police report alleging attempted rape.

She continues to see this individual and blames me for the kids’ not wanting anything to do with him. In her mind, these are all lies and I have made him out to be a monster.

I want to protect my children, but last time we went to court, the judge scolded me for running the background check! What should I do? -- Worried Father

DEAR WORRIED: You don’t say what issue landed you in court, so I’m going to assume that you two are tussling over custody/visitation concerning your youngest child.

If everything you say is true, I completely agree that your wife is showing terrible judgment. None of your children should ever be forced to meet or spend time with someone unless they freely consent.

On the other hand, aside from establishing this basic issue through the court, you should not surveil your ex-wife and police her personal choices unless they have a direct impact on the kids.

I agree that this does directly affect them, but I wonder if you worked hard enough to find another way to get your point across.

You and your ex must abide by the court’s decisions; and if you don’t like the court’s decision, you must work through the system to challenge it.

You should continue to advocate for your children, but you must also resist the temptation to be overly involved in your ex-wife’s life.

DEAR AMY: My mother has taken care of my grandmother (her mother) for more than 15 years. My grandmother will be 95 years old soon, and her faculties are waning. She basically acts and thinks like a 3-year-old. My mother is stressed out, and it is taking a toll on her mental and physical well-being.

My mother will not let me take care of my grandmother in my home. My suggestion was that my grandmother go to a retirement home near my uncle, a retired medical doctor. This way, he and other family members could visit her and ensure that she receives the best care possible.

I love both my mother and my grandmother, but it is coming to the point that one is sacrificing too much for the other. Please provide your advice, Amy; maybe my mother will listen to you. -- Third-Generation Realist

DEAR REALIST: Your focus is on your mother; her focus is on her mother. Logic and pragmatism don’t always apply with this sort of dynamic. You should continue to be involved and compassionate.

In the short term, you should find respite care for your mother so that she can have some of the stress and guilt relieved while your family continues to make important decisions about your grandmother.

You can start by visiting the Eldercare Locator Web site, eldercare.gov. The Administration on Aging offers helpful resources for families like yours and can connect you with local agencies.

In addition to offering physical care, you should urge your mother to see a specialized counselor (available through your local Office on Aging). This person can provide a professional assessment, counsel your mother without pressuring her and mediate between family members.

DEAR AMY: When I read the letter from “Annoyed,” I thought it was about my life!

Like the parents of Annoyed, my parents micromanaged my life well into my adulthood.

Finally, I had had enough. First I drew obvious limits: “I won’t take your calls late at night.” Then I told them, “I’ll call you every Sunday, without fail.”

Eventually, we all adjusted. But I had to force the change. -- Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Clarity, firmness and respect. Good for 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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