Par­ents worry about son in abu­sive mar­riage

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - LIFE - AMY DICK­IN­SON ASK AMY askamy@tri­ Twit­ter: @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: Our son mar­ried a girl who is emo­tion­ally abu­sive. She has one child from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship and they now have a child to­gether.

We try to keep a re­la­tion­ship go­ing with them and with both grand­chil­dren.

She con­stantly threat­ens our son with di­vorce. She shows no re­straint when it comes to yelling at him and the kids in front of us.

She has cut us off sev­eral times for things she per­ceived that we have no rec­ol­lec­tion of hap­pen­ing. We end up apol­o­giz­ing, just so we can have a re­la­tion­ship, even though her ac­cu­sa­tion is un­founded.

She lim­its our son see­ing us. Ap­par­ently, she tracks where he is by his cell­phone, and if he’s at our house, after about 10 min­utes she’s rail­ing on him to come home. We sus­pect she mon­i­tors his text mes­sages.

Our son doesn’t con­front her be­cause he wants an in­tact fam­ily for his chil­dren. He also says she’ll make his life mis­er­able.

He has an ex­ec­u­tive-level job and they live a very nice life­style. He doesn’t com­plain to us of­ten, but when he does, our hearts break.

We never drop in on them be­cause we were told that she doesn’t like that. She has a lot of rules. But, when she needs a fa­vor (such as time to get a man­i­cure), she will ask us to baby-sit, which we hap­pily do. There are times when she is very nice to us.

Do you have any ad­vice on how to keep the re­la­tion­ship with her go­ing, so that she doesn’t pu­n­ish us by with­draw­ing our grand­chil­dren? — SAD GRAND­PAR­ENTS

Dear Sad: By your ac­count, your son is be­ing iso­lated and con­trolled by his abu­sive wife. She also con­trols you, us­ing con­tact with your grand­chil­dren as a way to keep you in line. Un­der­stand that if she wants to ex­ert power over you, she will re­move ac­cess to them, no mat­ter what you do.

You can­not make your son’s choices for him, but you can refuse to be con­trolled.

Don’t let your daugh­ter-in­law use the kids as a weapon. This means that you will need to face the pos­si­bil­ity of not see­ing them for a time.

If she be­rates your son or her chil­dren in your pres­ence, say to her, “Stop it, please.” Con­front her and say, “We’re not go­ing to stay here and wit­ness this. We’re leav­ing.”

If she re­fuses to let you see the chil­dren, main­tain a neu­tral at­ti­tude: “That’s too bad; we’re sorry to hear that. If you change your mind or ever need a hand, let us know. We’re al­ways avail­able.”

Pri­vately, you should tell your son that he is in an abu­sive mar­riage and that you hope he will exit (with his child). Of­fer him tons of sup­port, en­cour­age­ment and prac­ti­cal help to leave when he is ready, but ac­cept that he may choose to stay.

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