Ask Amy: Codependent mom keeps son through Tupperware

Tribune Media ServicesAugust 11, 2013 

DEAR AMY: My stepson, a college instructor, is 33 years old and recently married. He and his mom have always been very close to the point of being codependent. I was hoping that when he got married he would start acting like a man and take responsibility for his life.

Boy was I wrong. He and his mom share a "secret" checking account. My wife pays for his and his wife's monthly cellphone bill — average bill is about $180 — and she also spends hundreds of dollars on him and his wife each month.

My wife lies to me on a regular basis about money and what she is doing when it comes to her son and his wife. She acknowledges this but does not change.

At least one day a week, she gives them leftover food. I suggested that he should return the containers to us to reuse instead of me having to buy more. My wife disagrees.

This leads to two questions. One: If my wife provides leftover food for her son and his wife on a weekly basis, should we expect to get back the container in which it was provided?

Two: What can I do to resolve the trust issue that has developed as a result of their relationship? — Forgotten Man

DEAR FORGOTTEN: Let's table the all-important container question and zero in on the alarming issue concerning your finances. Your wife's "secret" checking account is not really a secret because you know about it, but her financial choices seem to mirror her other choices in which you and her son are concerned.

I'll lay it out for you.

She does not care what you think. She does not care what you say. The primary relationship in her life is the one she has with her son.

The way to resolve the trust issue between you is for her to be transparent about her finances and for you to accept that you married someone hoping she would change. Couples therapy might not necessarily prompt change, but could be illuminating.

If you want to stay married to her, you'll have to find a way to accept this situation, while detaching from it.

You could start with the containers.

DEAR AMY: I was traveling with a colleague who had been waiting for the imminent birth of his nephew when he received the unexpected news (in my presence) that the baby had been born with Down syndrome. (This was unexpected to the parents as well.)

I did not know what to say. "Congratulations!" seemed inappropriate. "I am so sorry" would seem to say I don't place value on a human life if less than perfect. Other expressions like, "God gives the grace to handle problems," seem so trite.

I basically told him all of the above and said that I really didn't know how to respond but could only pray for the parents and family for strength in raising a baby with special needs.

How best could I have responded? — Caring Colleague

DEAR CARING: When faced with an extreme challenge, the most graceful people I know simply admit, "I don't quite know what to say. How are you feeling?" and offer warmth and companionship in the silence.

Down syndrome occurs along a spectrum; being born with it doesn't consign a child to a specific kind of future. But this is a family challenge as well as a family blessing, and I think the best response is to reveal your own humanity and admit to both.

DEAR AMY: Responding to "Of Sound Mind," the teen who never wanted to be a mother, I knew by age 11 or 12 that being a breeder was simply not in my future. This cost me two potential husbands, both lovely guys who kept insisting that I really wanted to have children.

There are many of us — women and men — who just don't have the urge to be parents. The young lady is quite correct in saying that should she, at some point, decide she wants the experience, she can always adopt; there are so many kids out there who need good homes, some of them no doubt born to those who truly didn't want them. — Happily Childless

DEAR CHILDLESS: Good point.

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.) 

 

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