Ask Amy: Parents fret their son is ‘settling’

October 9, 2013

DEAR AMY: Our well-educated, 33-year-old son is planning to marry a 30-year-old woman in two months. She is extremely quiet and only talks when asked a direct question. She doesn’t cook, clean, buy groceries or do any household chores. Our son does everything. She is an only child and is extremely focused on her appearance.

Our son used to be well-groomed, outgoing, fun-loving and thoughtful. Since he has been with this woman, he is now very quiet and doesn’t interact with family anymore unless we initiate contact. His appearance has gotten incredibly sloppy and he looks disheveled most of the time.

The wedding is coming up and we are concerned about his happiness. We think he is settling and may be depressed. We definitely don’t think he is happy or acts like someone who is in love and excited about building a life with this woman.

We don’t want to comment for fear he’ll take it as criticism and cut off all contact with us, so we haven’t said anything. Is there anything we can do at this point or do we just need to stand by and watch this happen? -- Concerned Parents

DEAR CONCERNED: A common tactic of abusers is to isolate a partner from friends and family. Do your utmost to keep the door open, even if your contact is limited.

This does not mean that you have to stand by passively. Be honest and loving and express your concern, without casting blame or judgment.

His fiancee might be an abuser, the two of them might be using or abusing alcohol or drugs, he might be addicted to online gaming, sleep deprived for other reasons, depressed or stressed.

As parents, you know your son intimately. You see changes that worry you. So you say, “Son, are you okay? You seem quite depressed and stressed and we’re worried about you. You don’t seem like yourself lately. What’s going on with you?”

Do not make any comments about his partner or suggest that he is “settling.” Stay as close as you can to this couple — but express your concern, privately, to your son.

DEAR AMY: My family and I live next door to a baby boomer and her elderly mother. The daughter, on medical disability, lives in the home owned by her mother.

On a daily basis, our family overhears the daughter yelling at her mother over trivial issues. These yelling fits seem to be one-sided; we never overhear the mother’s voice. They include screaming, and stomping of feet so loud that our house shakes. This seems like an abusive relationship to us but we don’t know what action, if any, we should take to help the mother. -- Worried Neighbors

DEAR WORRIED: This is heartbreaking. Please intervene — even at a distance. When elderly people are isolated and unable to get help for themselves, concerned neighbors are often the first reporters of abuse. If there is pounding so loud your own house shakes, you should call the police.

The Administration on Aging hosts the National Center on Elder Abuse (ncea.aoa.gov), devoted to education and support for vulnerable elders. Their helpful and informative Web site will educate you about red flags of abuse and also lists state-by-state hotline numbers to call. You can report this anonymously and a caseworker will investigate.

Otherwise, the National Eldercare Locator has operators who can give you more information and refer you to local elder services: 800-677-1116.

DEAR AMY: In your response to “Frustrated Mom” you said that it was “unromantic” to schedule a time for connecting intimately as a couple. Not so!

Kids, pets, work, shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work, scouts, sports, music lessons — it all runs on a schedule. If you don’t schedule intimacy, it gets left off the list.

My wife and I have a scheduled “date night” (and weekend morning) for intimacy. Either one of us can ask for a “rain check,” but otherwise it happens. It makes our marriage better. -- Happy Spouse

DEAR HAPPY: To clarify, I didn’t say it was “unromantic” to schedule intimacy, I said it “sounds” unromantic. I advocate for this idea, especially for crazy-busy parents — for exactly the reasons you enumerate.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

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