Dear Carolyn: My daughter-in-law is looking at a job about a 3 1/2 hour car ride away from her parents and other family. Her parents are trying to guilt her into not moving, blaming even the thought of moving on my son — which she denies, and she has told them this.

She is struggling with this and asks for my help. I have told her it is their decision, hers and my son’s. Any other suggestions as to what to say?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Have you asked her what kind of help she wants?

If it’s validation, then tell her you’ll give her all you have.

If it’s to talk to her family for her, then I think you say you’re willing to have difficult conversations, sure — but that she and your son are autonomous, competent adults who don’t need a spokesinlaw to legitimize what they do. Plus, you could make things worse, drawing more unwarranted blame to your son.

If it’s just an ear, then, sure! You will gladly listen as she works through the difficult feelings out loud.

Because pulling away from a family’s guilt tentacles is really hard. The whole reason they have suction is that she was successfully groomed to see herself as beholden to them and their feelings. Once you believe it’s your job to make other people happy, it’s hard on a deep emotional level to go through your days knowing you disappointed someone important.

That she’s willing to consider this move, and that she’s standing up to them when they try to blame your son, says she’s finding her own emotional footing on her own values. The best thing you can do at this point is be a safe place for her when she feels conflicted.

This could just be a manifestation of her being wired to seek approval. The message that she and your son get to run their own lives is one that not only bears repeating, but also might need it.

Re: In-Laws: My in-laws loved me for myself in ways my parents never did. My mother in-law’s support and sympathy when my parents were out of line kept me sane. They are long gone, but every year I do something quietly special on my mother in-law’s birthday. Your daughter in-law will appreciate your love and support for ever.

— In-Law

In-Law: Beautiful, thank you.

Dear Carolyn: A few days ago I ran into my ex-husband, who I have not seen in 20 years, at one of those big stores that sells everything under the sun. I was with my teenage children, who know about him, and my husband. He was with a woman and a child who I think was his daughter.

It was very awkward, but we said hello and made some small talk, and I introduced my family to him, and told them he was my ex-husband. The little girl expressed surprise at the way I introduced him, and he quickly walked away with them, giving me a very dirty parting look. Did I do anything wrong?

— Chance Encounter

Chance Encounter: Nope. Whatever you messed up, it was a bed he made himself.