Columnist

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: A son I’ve always loved deeply has grown up to bully his wife and children. His temper is disproportionate to the offense. When he flares up, he gets physical by squeezing or pinching. Having witnessed this, I cannot go back to not seeing it. I can’t stop thinking about the grandkids. I almost told my daughter-in-law to leave him.

I can see no good way to help without it being labeled interference and rejected. Do you?

Witness

Witness: You have information, a duty and possibly far more power than you recognize. Families too often defend their own; a parent who sides with an in-law against a child is unusual enough to have real leverage.

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

That power needs to be managed with great care and reliable expertise. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE, to find out exactly what you can (and can’t, and shouldn’t) do to help your daughter-in-law and grandkids. Do it also to help your son, because abusive behavior like his comes from a bad place — and leads to worse.

Hi, Carolyn: I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years. We live together. He is 40 and I am 38. I am growing increasingly impatient with him not proposing. He says we are taking the steps to get there by living together, but I don’t understand why we have to wait. I feel like he should know whether I’m the one. He comes from a broken home and seems to have many fears and doubts about marriage. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this waiting period? At this age, is it a bad sign that he doesn’t know already and needs more time? Thanks!

Impatient

Impatient: 2017. It’s a fine year. (Okay, it’s kind of not, but I’m being rhetorical here.)

Waiting for a proposal only passes the “It’s tradition!” sniff test when both of you think proposing is a man’s job.

In your case, waiting for the man to propose is just the end result of two people who are not, not, not in agreement about what they’re doing together and why.

You want to be married; he doesn’t.

He knows why; you don’t.

He thinks waiting is the answer; you don’t.

He has fears about marriage; you don’t.

He thinks living together is a valid incremental step toward marriage; you don’t.

You think two years is enough for midlife adults to figure out whether to commit; he doesn’t.

My suggestion to handle this waiting period is to stop the infernal waiting. You don’t even know what you’re waiting for or why! Not really.

Instead, replace the waiting with talking. Say you have tried to, but don’t understand what he’s waiting for or why. Ask him to articulate it. Really, really listen.

Whether he articulates it or doesn’t, his response will be useful if you regard it as such, because, think about it — you’re sharing a home and aren’t teenagers and you’re asking a fair question. If he doesn’t or can’t answer you, then what more information do you need about the life you can expect with him?

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.