Dear Ann:

I am at my wits' end over a situation that involves my wife, my daughter and my daughter's boyfriend. About 18 months ago, the boyfriend decided to start his own business. My wife, "Lynn," volunteered to help him set up the bookkeeping system and other aspects of the start-up. Now, Lynn is working over 40 hours a week -- for free. She is more committed to the business than he is.

We have discussed this issue at length, and Lynn says she enjoys the challenge and that I should "stay out of her business." She also says the company would fail without her, and I believe it. Meanwhile, I am working full time at a stressful, difficult job, and have to take up the slack at home, which means doing all the dishes, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so on.

I don't suspect any monkey business between my wife and our daughter's boyfriend, but this guy is very charismatic. I can't figure out if this is some weird, subconscious attempt on Lynn's part to relive her youth vicariously through her daughter, or if she is trying to compete with her.

I have toyed with the idea of giving her a reasonable period of time to extricate herself or I will leave. After 30 years of marriage and two wonderful, grown children, this seems like a drastic move, but I've had it.

I would appreciate some advice from you, Ann.

Need Direction in California

Let me get this straight -- your daughter's boyfriend is starting a new business, and your wife is helping him to the tune of 40 hours a week? Meanwhile, you are cooking, doing dishes, laundry, and cleaning, in addition to working at your stressful job? You say you've had it and want to know if I have any advice? Well, yes, I do.

Tell your wife you are resigning as chief cook and dishwasher, and if she wishes to continue to knock herself out for this young man, it's okay with you, but not at the expense of her share of the home responsibilities. If she doesn't agree to cool it with the self-inflicted second job, insist on joint counseling, and let the counselor establish the appropriate guidelines.

Dear Ann:

My mother has been a widow for several years and is now in her late seventies. She lives alone and has always been fiercely independent. She appears to be in very good health. In fact, there are days when I think she may outlive me.

In recent talks, Mom has made it plain that under no circumstances will she ever go into a retirement home. She says, "When the time comes that I cannot manage on my own, I will live with you." Ann, the thought of us living together is very upsetting. In fact, it's my worst nightmare. I love my mother dearly, but I must take time away from her every three days, or else, we end up fighting.

I try to visit or communicate with Mom on a daily basis, because I am her only friend. Being a realist, I am certain that eventually I am going to have to place my mother in some sort of facility. She refuses to discuss the matter. Whenever I bring up the subject, she acts as if I'm trying to lock her in a dungeon.

Please ask your readers who are living in retirement centers to write about their experiences. You have taught me that there can be no better teacher than someone who has been there. Perhaps your readers can help my mother see things differently. Thanks, Ann.

T.M. in Orlando

Here's your letter, and I'll let you know of my readers' responses. How about it, folks? Write on!