Los Angeles Times

Son and his 5 kids move in

- Send questions to Amy Dickinson by email to askamy@amydickins­on .com.

Dear Amy: I married a wonderful woman about two years ago. Six months later her widower son moved into our house, with his five children. The children ranged in age from a newborn baby to 8 years old.

This “man” couldn’t raise one child, much less five.

The children have had no formal (or any) education, nor medical or dental care. The mother died in childbirth (due to her own lack of medical care) with the baby, who is now 13 months old.

I am a semi-retired psychologi­st; I love my wife and grandchild­ren, and I try my best.

I will do anything to save my marriage. However, whenever I try to discuss this situation with my wife, I’m cast as a heartless, uncaring wretch.

She is reluctant (but perhaps willing) to go to therapy with me, but I’m actually afraid to address this, as it is perhaps a deal-breaker.

Advice? Suggestion­s?

Upset in the West

Dear Upset: As a psychologi­st, you understand that clear, steady and loving communicat­ion is key to your family’s success. However, some of the language you are using to describe how your wife views you (“heartless, uncaring wretch”) is loaded. You should work on that.

Therapy will give you both the tools to move forward as co-parents and grandparen­ts in order to build a strong family unit.

Your wife’s son is the unstable third leg of your family structure. Even if you and your wife manage to get (and stay) on the same page, he is the legal parent of these children.

The children need strong, loving and structured parenting. They must receive medical care and be enrolled in school.

If your wife wants the marriage to succeed for everyone’s mutual benefit, she should agree to receiving profession­al help.

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 21 years. We are in our late 50s. Our youngest two children are close to graduating from high school and will be going away to college. We want to retire early and relocate.

The problem is my mother. She’s 87 but is still healthy.

We do not have a great relationsh­ip, but she moved here to be close to us 15 years ago. She refuses to live with us and has declared that she hates where we’re moving.

My friends can’t understand how I can just leave her. My husband and I have not had any “us” time, as we’ve had kids our entire marriage. We just want to spend our golden years enjoying each other’s company.

How do I get through leaving her here? Do I owe it to her to stay?

What About Us?

Dear What About Us? According to you, your mother’s options are very limited, and ultimately she will be forced into a situation she might not like. But if she relocates to your new town and moves in with you (an option you imply is open to her), it does not solve your desire for “us time.” In fact, it saddles you with your mother full time.

You do not owe it to your mother to stay in your home town, but your retreat does seem statement-making, and hasty. Your kids aren’t even in college yet. Your best bet for the early period of retirement might be to stay where you are for two years or so, and plan to take long trips away.

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