Dear Annie: When my sister dated “Ron,” he was a very angry and controlling man. They fought constantly. My parents insisted they both see a psychologist to work out their relationship issues. The psychologist diagnosed Ron as a sociopath, but my sister married him anyway.
They divorced when their son was 5 years old. My sister has sole custody, but Ron sees and speaks to him whenever he pleases and constantly disrespects my sister.
I have recently noticed some disturbing behavior in my nephew. He has bursts of anger, displays reckless behavior and copies his father’s words, calling my sister some very bad names.
I worry that my nephew will become a sociopath like his father. Since I have the clinical diagnosis from the psychologist, can I hire a lawyer to request that Ron have only supervised visits? I realize that I’m meddling in my sister’s business, but she doesn’t have the strength to fight her ex. In fact, she wasn’t the one who asked for the divorce. Ron did.
My parents are very old, and none of the other siblings cares about this. I feel I should do something.
— Can’t Stand By Helplessly Watching
Dear Can’t: We understand your frustration and concern, but without your sister’s cooperation, there’s a limit to what you can do. Would you be willing to claim that she is an incompetent mother and take custody of the boy? Can you show that she is putting her child at risk?
We think you should instead urge your sister to get counseling to understand the ways in which she is allowing her ex-husband to take advantage of her and emotionally damage their child. She also should seek counseling for her angry son, who wants his father to love him, and so he emulates behavior that hurts his mother, whom he also loves. This is both confusing and manipulative. Perhaps she will take action for the sake of her child, if not for herself.
Dear Annie: When my family gets together for holidays, my two daughters-in-law prepare and bring food. When dinner is over, they clean and do dishes. My daughter rarely brings food and never helps with the cleanup. This embarrasses me, yet I do not want to say anything that would spoil the day for everyone. Perhaps she will read this letter and realize that family members should do their share. What do you say?
— Just a Mom
Dear Mom: We say you need to tell your daughter to do her share, but don’t wait until the last minute. Before the next holiday gathering, simply ask her to bring a dish like everyone else, and add that you expect her to participate in the cleanup, along with her sisters-in-law. And by the way, where are your sons? They should be helping, as well. We suggest that you make a matter-of-fact announcement to that effect and assign chores for everyone.
Dear Annie: I cried when I first read the letter from “Saddened,” whose wife has cut off all forms of intimacy. I am a few years shy of 60 and have had no intimacy in years because of my husband’s “medical issues,” though I often wonder whether he simply doesn’t want me anymore.
I know age has changed us, but the feelings are still there. I cry when I think of what I am missing. He couldn’t hurt me any more if he stuck a knife through me. I’ve tried initiating and hinting, and get a peck on the cheek for my efforts. I don’t want him to feel forced. The thought of an affair has crossed my mind, but there’s no one else I want, and I doubt anyone would want me. I know my husband loves me, but I miss the closeness we once shared. I have reconciled myself to the fact that this is the way it’s going to be, but inside, I am
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