My fiancé and I rented his parents’ basement apartment.
Shortly after I moved in, his mother's alcoholism became apparent to me. I’d find her drunk, or see evidence of her taking my expensive bottles of whiskey.
Then my prescription medication was found in the trash, my shoes hidden in storage spaces, and my bras thrown in the garbage.
We put a lock on our bedroom door. She became so aggressive we had to move out within a week later.
Her husband swings from defending her to acknowledging she needs help.
They made an appointment with a specialist but she refused to go. I haven’t spoken with them since late October.
I’m worried that, without professional mediation, I’ll be scapegoated.
They keep pushing for a meeting with my fiancé. He’d like mediation as well. They’re using dramatic language like “estrangement” and referring to rehabilitation as “locking her up.”
We’ve put wedding planning on hold. Now my extended family’s starting to piece together that there’s an issue with his parents.
I’ve attended Al-anon meetings, and know this issue has been around at least a decade, much longer than I’ve been involved.
How do I communicate that I hold no ill will, that I just feel it’s best we seek professional mediation?
Fear of Scapegoating
For you, the issue is to not be blamed for tension between you and your future mother-in-law.
For her, it’s not being “punished” for her drinking.
But for her family, it’s about covering up - something they’ve been doing for ten years at least.
However, the most serious issue is her alcoholism, which is both a serious health risk for her, and will also cause much more family turmoil unless it’s checked.
Talk about your concern for her well being rather than focus only on how it affects you.
Discuss with your fiancé where he stands on the real possibility of being estranged if his mother keeps refusing all help, his father stands by her, and they distance themselves from you two.
You need to know how committed you are to each other during this situation, however it’s handled.
A guy friend and I reconnected online after losing contact for seven years. I haven’t seen him since I was 14, but we’d previously get back to each other online.
He moved to a different city and now I’m moving there soon.
I liked him once but he never knew it. I’d really like to work on a friendship with him now, in person and online.
But a lot of girls are now after him. He’s moving up the ladder in professional football.
I'm scared to take a chance, and I don't want to be a bother to him. I want to make a lasting first impression after all these years.
I’ve been thinking about him a lot, so that's probably a sign that I'm starting to like him again.
How do I take that chance without being clingy and getting too excited way to fast?
Just a Girl
You’re already sounding a bit starry-eyed and too excited about someone you actually barely know anymore.
You like the idea of him. But without any real contact for seven years, plus the changes in his life, that’s all you have.
Still, you can keep up the renewed contact, IF he responds. Expect nothing more than his being friendly online unless he initiates meeting in person.
That’s when you take your “chance” and when you need confidence in yourself, not just a fantasy about him.
FEEDBACK Regarding my letter about being asked to care for both my brain-damaged spouse and her mother (Dec. 17):
The Writer – “People have no idea of the consequences of a severe brain injury.
“My partner has no short-term memory. She doesn’t know what happened a minute ago. She’s constantly anxious.
“She needs help to do every activity, including going to the bathroom.
“Her judgment’s poor. She’ll ask to sit on the porch in winter or refuse to wear a coat.
“She requires my 24-hour care.
“Even if I wanted to also care for her mother, who has dementia, my spouse could never tolerate her living here. Only a strict routine gives her a sense of safety and helps her cope.
“We need to stop thinking that family members can be pushed beyond the brink caring for loved ones with serious health and behavioral issues. We need affordable programs to assist them.”
Tip of the day:
A difficult relationship with an alcoholic is about the drinking more than about you.