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

We try to maintain a relationship with them and with both grandchildren.

She constantly threatens divorce and shows no restraint when it comes to yelling at him and the kids.

She has cut us off several times for things that we have no recollection of happening, but we end up apologizing just so we can have a relationship.

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.

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

We never drop in on them because we were told she doesn’t like that. But, when she needs a favor (such as time to get a manicure), she will ask us to babysit, 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?

Amy says: 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-in-law 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, 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 support, encouragement and help to leave when he is ready, but accept that he may choose to stay.

A dead-end job

Dear Amy: I have been at my job for 10 years. I work in shipping, and I don’t see any way that I can move up.

I’ve been thinking of leaving and moving to another state. I think things might be better if I start anew with my wife and two children.

I am computer literate, with an associate degree. I don’t want to continue in shipping, but I don’t receive job offers outside of shipping because of my experience. Should I quit and move on?

Amy says: I don’t think it’s wise to quit your job and move, unless you have substantial savings or support in your new location. Your long-standing work experience might dictate your job prospects wherever you are. Moving will also have a substantial impact on your family.

You should pursue any training programs available to you, and if you have a mentor, you should solicit their advice about advancement within the company.

You could also try to change directions through further education. Keep up your computer skills, and take classes related to your area of interest.

Develop and brush up your networking skills, online through sites like LinkedIn, and in person through community connections.


Send Ask Amy questions to Amy Dickinson at Twitter: @askingamy