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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My husband and I are heartsick over a request from our son to refrain from having any contact with him or our daughter-in-law. They have been married for five years, and we feel we have always been kind, generous, and supportive of them.

One month ago, we learned from our son that our daughter-in-law has been keeping a “grievance journal” filled with many pages of “grievances” that have upset her, dating from several years before their marriage. Items on this list were fabrications, insinuations, suppositions, and blatant falsehoods. For example, she, overhearing a conversation, supposed that we were talking about her when we were not. We also learned that she interpreted my “body language” as being negative toward her, but we have always liked her.

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We had indications that all was not well in their relationship when we learned that our son was lying to us about why his wife would not come to visit us, but we tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. Now, my husband and I (and our other children) feel we have lost these family members. We will respect our son’s request to stop all communication with them to avoid what he calls a “meltdown.”

Our family is stunned, deeply hurt and trying very hard to maintain positive thoughts toward them. Help!

A. This is alarming. According to your account, your daughter-in-law is isolating your son and denying him access to his support system. This is classic behavior of a domestic abuser.

The “grievance journal” sent shivers up my spine and could be a sign of mental illness. Do not be a party to her machinations.

You should keep in touch with your son. Perhaps he has a close sibling who could reach out to him, or maybe you could contact him while he is at work. You need to determine if he is afraid of her, and should help him to leave this relationship if he wants to. If he stays, keep the door open for communication.

This is not normal and it is not right. Women are not the only victims of domestic abuse, but men’s stories are seldom told. The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women has a helpful website and hot line (dahmw.org, 888-743-5754).

Q. Recently you published a letter from a 16-year-old sexually active girl. You suggested that she and her boyfriend should go to Planned Parenthood together. Way back in 1976, I was an 18-year-old unprepared young man. The love of my life was 16.

After our first night “together” we had a pregnancy scare and had several serious talks about what to do. We went to Planned Parenthood. They gave us advice and helped us get her on birth control.

We stopped at home afterward, and my mom asked where we had been. I told her. She said, “Great! I’m glad you kids are being responsible.” Later we learned that she had become pregnant with my oldest brother the first night she met my dad back in 1941. She didn’t have choices then.

This story has a happy ending. My wife and I are still in love 36 years later.

A. Planned Parenthood counsels women and men about their birth control options, in addition to providing health screenings for women. Thank you for telling your story about how to face this important issue as a couple. Good for you!

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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