Dear Amy:

I have a problem that keeps escalating. I was a single mom for many years and raised twin boys, who are now 23 years old and still live with me.

I have a professional career, my own house and a small business on the side. I married less than a year ago. My new husband complains almost every day that my sons are taking advantage of me. They don't help in the house, with the bills or with anything else, but it has always been this way.

I have told my husband that we should sit down with them and try to set some rules. He refuses, saying that this is not his problem and that he doesn't want to talk to them.

My sons are hearing him complain and nag all the time, and they don't like it. There is animosity between them now, and my marriage is deteriorating. My husband is telling me that he is leaving.

What should I do? If I have to choose, I will choose my sons before anything else. My husband knew how the situation was before he asked me to marry him.

Tug of War

I can tell that you feel unfairly squeezed by the men in your life, and I would love to sympathize. Unfortunately, I've decided to slap you upside the head instead.

This situation is entirely of your own making, and it is entirely in your power to fix it.

Yes, your new husband walked into this domestic arrangement when he married you, but I'm sure he found it hard to imagine that you would continue to wait on, house and support your two grown sons after marriage. Regardless, this is a conversation that you should have had before your wedding, don't you think?

Perhaps your husband is another version of your sons -- lazy and entitled and unable to live on his own -- but let's assume that he is a fairly normal man who wants a fairly normal life and marriage. Of course, he is not getting that, and I'm not surprised that he is a little grouchy. He is right -- disciplining your sons is absolutely your job. It's too bad that you passively refuse this basic responsibility.

Unless your sons are disabled and physically or mentally unable to care for themselves, you need to give them a chance to live their lives and prove their worth. They should be living outside of the home, working and taking their own first steps toward maturity. They cannot do that when they are living at home, watching reruns of "Full House" and letting you bring them meals on a TV tray.

Out they go.

Dear Amy:

I am 34 years old. I would like to get back in touch with my father.

My mother and father never married. In fact, they never really had much of a relationship. It was over before my mother realized she was pregnant.

My mother (and our family) raised me, and when I was young I visited him and his wife and my half-siblings a few times a year.

I never felt comfortable there for many reasons, but the biggest reason was that they were very religious at the time and tried to demonize my mother for being a single mother. It was so wrong to me, even as a 6-year-old.

When I was around 11 or 12, I decided I didn't want to go there anymore and apparently that was fine with them too.

I live thousands of miles away from my home now. I have a great relationship with my mother. My father and my half sister have tried to contact me through my mother. She told me about it both times, but I wasn't ready. The last attempt was several years ago.

I have found my father's phone number through Google. I want to contact him and my half sister, but I feel like just calling and saying, "This is your long-lost daughter" would be too much of a blow to the psyche for all of us.

Is there any way to do this so that no one has to freak out?

Also Amy

Make the call. Script out something to get you started and go ahead and practice in the mirror.

If you end up leaving a message, make sure to say that you realize he has tried to contact you over the years and that you appreciate it but that you weren't ready. Tell him that your life is good (I certainly hope it is) and that you were prompted to call because you realize you're ready to reach out and you hope he is too.

Leave your number, slowly and clearly, and also an e-mail address. E-mail might be a great way for the two of you to get to know each other, though it doesn't work for everyone.

If you don't hear back, you might want to follow up with a letter, though I'm sure you realize that your father might not be ready to communicate with you right now. (I'll bet he's thrilled, though.)

Good luck!

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.