DEAR AMY: My 27-year-old son returned home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan about two years ago. He, his wife and infant daughter live with us due to economic difficulties that are common to their generation. He attends school on vet benefits and also is a National Guard member.
He recently disclosed to me that he’s been very unhappy since returning from his tour of duty and is torn between leaving his wife to be “happy” or staying with her for the sake of the baby and being “miserable.”
I fear he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his tour of duty, even though he wasn’t directly involved in combat, and that this is at the root of his depression rather than him being stuck in a loveless marriage.
It breaks my heart to know that he might make a rash decision to destroy his family over this, as his wife is loving and supportive of him. Is there any advice or direction you can offer to help my struggling veteran son? I know I can’t live his life for him. But he has reached out to me and seems to be overwhelmed with his situation. -- Worried Father
DEAR FATHER: Your son might be suffering from some traumatic aftereffects of his tour of duty. Or, he might be a guy pushing 30 who is stressed, restless and wants out of his marriage. The everyday reality of family life is extremely challenging, especially for people who are engaged in exciting, dangerous, high-octane careers that take them away from home for long periods.
Your son has a responsibility to try his hardest to be a good person and a good parent. If he is determined to leave his marriage, you should urge him to consider the reality of his choice. For instance, could his wife and child continue to live with you if they tried a trial separation? This couple would benefit from professional mediation. He should be screened for depression. He can connect with his local VA for an evaluation.
Your responsibility is to be supportive of each party, and all about your grandchild. Do not refer to this as “destroying his family” because the focus should be on keeping the family functioning and peaceful, even if the marriage ends.
DEAR AMY: I’m the mother of a 41-year-old daughter who is unable to feel any empathy for me. She’s courteous in every other way, but if I ever need support — emotional or physical — she’s MIA.
Twice she has flown home for surprise parties for me, but has never come to help me or care for me through six surgeries. She cannot listen to any problems of mine, no matter how serious.
I have tried to talk with her directly about this, and she feels that it is not her job to take care of her mother in any way. That’s not part of the mother-daughter relationship. She has told me that it should be entirely one-way, regardless of my age or need.
What will she teach her kids about how a child should treat her mother? And how much can I entrust her with as I become older and need her to carry out my end-of-life wishes?
I’m afraid she’ll dump me in a nursing home and walk away. My son has schizophrenia and could not bear the stress of making those decisions alone. -- Mother
DEAR MOTHER: I can only imagine how disappointed you are in your daughter. I think it is wisest to assume that she will never change.
You should do everything possible to plan for your own future. This includes researching housing options and finding friends or other family members who would be willing to assist. That way, when your future arrives, you won’t feel “dumped,” but like you are living according to your own plans and wishes.
DEAR AMY: I think your advice to “Impatient” was fine, but you really should have advised this unmarried mother of two to see a lawyer! The father of her kids may never marry her and they should both be aware of the legal ramifications. -- Not a Lawyer
DEAR NOT: I agree; great advice.