With Amy Dickinson’s permission, I am copying here below the whole of her column for today. All three letters touch dramatically on principles I associate with presence, including “Keep the focus on you,” “Mind your own business,” and “Don’t come uninvited.”
DEAR AMY: My fiance’s mother is a monster. He gets upset any time they speak. The latest incident was because he had not been in touch with her since Christmas.
He no longer lives in the same city as her (an hour away). The only time she calls is 6 a.m. on a Sunday. She thinks he should talk to her! She bailed on Christmas but blames him for not making the effort to travel home to see her or contact her.
We have been so busy with work and school that visiting with her slipped through the cracks. She has only called once or twice since Christmas (always at 6 a.m.), and of course we didn’t answer because we were sleeping!
We have asked her not to call at those times, but she continues. So now my fiance is upset. This evil woman is making him feel that he is a bad son, when really she has no right to talk. She abandoned him at 22 months old (his grandmother raised him), and just a few months before he left town four years ago, she expected to rekindle their relationship.
I do not like seeing him upset or beating himself up because of her. What can I do about this? I do not want to step between them, but I am sick and tired of her pinning everything on him. — Monster-in-Law
DEAR MONSTER: You may think you are being loyal to your fiance by branding his mother “evil” and a “monster,” but you are actually fanning the flames. Your goal for your beloved should be for him to have a peaceful reconciliation. By reconciliation, I mean not necessarily that he should reconcile with his mother, but that he should arrive at a point where he can handle this challenging relationship in a way that makes him feel better. You should be in his corner (not leading the charge) during the struggle.
One thing he could do is call his mother back at a decent hour, for goodness’ sake. If he wants to have any contact with her, he should return one of her phone calls.
Your guy has a lot of unfinished business. He may choose not to have a relationship with his mother. If she blames him for her own inadequacies, he should chalk it up to her incredible selfishness.
You should not be hovering in the background, inflating the drama. Simply envelop him in love and affection and let him know that you will support his efforts, whatever they are.
DEAR AMY: How do you get a family member to stop drinking himself to death? This is tricky because the whole family likes to drink.
This one individual is slowing killing himself. No one has money for treatment, and the person would most likely not go. Any advice? He seems as if he wants to die. — Desperate
DEAR DESPERATE: I’m so sorry. So very sorry. In addition to your family member’s alcoholism, I am also sorry to tell you that there is very little you as an individual can do to halt someone else’s addiction — certainly if there is no collective will from other family members to intervene.
Given your limitations, the most you can do is make sure you never contribute money or alcohol to feed your family member’s addiction (although other family members might). Continue to advocate for the person to get help. His physician might be able to connect him with rehab, hospitalization or other treatment.
Ultimately you must protect yourself from the fallout and ravages of this disease by learning from others and dealing with your own sorrow.
You can learn more by attending Al-Anon meetings. Check al-anon.alateen.org for information.
DEAR AMY: Boom! You really landed a punch with your answer to “Sad Sister,” the sanctimonious woman who excluded her sister from family outings.
Unfortunately, I have had experience being the excluded sister. It is a truly soul-destroying experience. I no longer have a relationship with my sisters because of this type of bullying. Thank you for standing up to her. — Stronger Now
DEAR STRONGER: Scores of readers have responded to this column. I think I broke the Internet. Thank you all.
(Originally posted 05/27/14.)