Dear Amy: Our son and daughter-in-law, married for about six years, recently dropped a bomb on my husband and me.
We are having a hard time understanding this choice and accepting what this will mean for our relationship going forward, and for our larger family. We are the only family members they have shared this information with so far, and we are sworn to secrecy.
They may have eased their consciences by telling us, but now we are left with troubling and unsettling information and no place to go with it. We assured them that we will never stop loving them, but this is awkward for us.
What can we do to ease our troubled minds?
— Bewildered Parents
Bewildered: Let’s start by talking about divorce. Not that long ago, divorce meant a total severing of a relationship. But then Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin highlighted the concept of “conscious uncoupling,” where a couple ceases to be married, but continues to love one another, even as they move on to other relationships.
You may define marriage as monogamy until divorce or death, but as people explore their freedom to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be married, they may choose “ethical non-monogamy,” which is where they remain lovingly married, but are free to engage in other romantic relationships in a way that they believe is open and honest. They don't define this as infidelity. It is about consensual relationships.
In my opinion, the important question is how these polyamorous relationships will affect children growing up in families with three or four adults who all identify as parents and partners. If all the adults are stable, loving, and committed to the children, then I imagine the kids will be fine.
Take a breath, do some reading about polyamory, and understand that you define marriage one way, while they define it differently.
Unless you and they are religious, this doesn't make it “wrong.” It just makes it “what is.”
This is their life and their choice, and if they want to remove the taboo surrounding polyamory, you should discourage them from defining this as a deep, dark family secret.
They (not you) can explain themselves to other family members when the time comes, and yes — it's bound to be awkward … until it isn't.
Dear Amy: About five years ago, I met a married couple at a local coffee shop. I consider them acquaintances. They think we’re friends. After a while I found the guy to be really annoying and tried not to run into them.
They moved to another city. They had a going-away party, and I decided to go because I figured I would never see them again. I’ve successfully dodged them whenever they visited.
Suddenly, they moved back because he now has cancer and is getting treatment here.
I now have had to feign interest and concern. I've run into them on the street a few times and get text messages and phone calls from them on a regular basis.
How do I get out of this and get away from them? Does this make me a bad person because now he has cancer?
I just don’t care about them!
— Nice Guy, Not Heartless
Heartless: Keep your boundaries in place. It is easy to let calls go to voice mail and to dodge texts, if that’s what you want to do.
Think about the actual amount of time spent interacting with them (it sounds minimal), and then determine to be nice to them when you do.
They are human beings. You are, too. Do you have to care about someone to express compassion? I hope not.
Dear Amy: I’m a fan but wanted to point out in your response to “Distressed Dad” that you focused mainly on the age of his unvaccinated daughter being 20 and immature.
I’m fully vaccinated and high-risk, but there are people I’ve met 60 and older who aren’t vaccinated and couldn’t care less about my or anyone else’s health.
Age is irrelevant.
Gia: This 20-year-old lied about her vaccination status and demonstrated other behavior that I believe was a function of her immaturity. But I do agree with you that maturity does not always accompany age.
©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency
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