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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. After 43 years of marriage, my mother discovered my father’s affair. Since then, they have been on a two-year roller coaster ride of recommitting to their marriage and my father relapsing into the affair every few months.

Several months ago their relationship reached its breaking point and my father seemed to see the light. My parents finally started seeing a therapist and they told me that things were better than ever.

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However, it just came to light that my father is still in contact with his girlfriend. My mother won’t leave him, even though his behavior has made her a shell of the person she once was and every day is a struggle for her.

My father wants me to forgive him again, but I told him I cannot trust him. I have a family of my own and this has brought sadness and anxiety into our home. I’ve realized that I have no power to help them and I want to get off this roller coaster, but I don’t know how.

My gut is telling me to end communication, but my heart is telling me it is not the answer.

A. You have rightly identified your powerlessness over your father’s behavior and your mother’s choice to stay in the marriage. However, I don’t think that ceasing communication is necessary, and it could impact your mother negatively.

You should seek to arrive at that tender spot of equilibrium where you don’t get sucked into their marital drama but provide emotional support and a decent relationship with both of them. You can forgive your father his ample failings as a person and a husband, but you are prudent to withhold your trust until he demonstrates he is worthy of it.

In addition to marriage counseling, your mother should see a counselor on her own. She needs and deserves to pour out her heart and frustration to a dispassionate listener who can help her navigate this ongoing challenge and deal with her depression. You should be in her corner no matter what she decides.

Q. I play hockey on a girls’ team. There is one hockey mom who is always yelling at her daughter. It’s irritating to the people sitting around her because she has a shrill, whiny voice and yells at the players as if she is the coach. She is also very critical of our playing. How can I tell her to stop yelling at the players without hurting/offending her?

A. Your job is to skate, shoot, and score. I realize that the screechings of spectators is distracting and annoying, but you should consider this one more challenge that will greet you on the ice.

Other spectators may find ways to shush this woman, or your coach may have to rein her in. If it’s bad enough, the refs could also attempt to freeze her out. Short of direct interference with the game, I could not find any rule dictating motherly yelling from the stands.

You can tell this mom how distracting and distressing her yelling is, but you will definitely hurt/offend her. She sounds like a hothead. You should feel compassion for her daughter.

Q. “Grateful” expressed a desire to thank his girlfriend’s parents for always picking up the dinner check. I loved your advice to send a note and offer to do something nice for them like chores or a home-cooked meal.

Mainly I appreciated hearing from a young person searching for ways to express gratitude. I agree that he deserves a “Good Conduct” medal.

A. Many readers had a similar reaction. Thank you all.

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

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