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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. We are three close women friends who have known each other for more than 30 years. One of us has been dating a man for six years.

He said that he was married at the beginning of their relationship, and now he says that his wife died 18 months ago of cancer. We always suspected that he was lying.

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Since then we have collected irrefutable evidence that his wife is still alive and that he still lives with her.

On several occasions, we have tried to give some hints that our friend should look further into his story, but she seems to be in denial. We do not know what to do.

Should we tell her the truth?

We know that she will be devastated if they break up. We are desperate to know what to do.

A. Regardless of what your friend knows or believes, friends tell one another the truth. And then friends stick around for the aftermath.

Holding on to this irrefutable evidence puts the two of you in the uncomfortable position of knowing more about your friend’s life than she does. I suggest you present her with your proof, leaving nothing out, and making no specific recommendations about what she must do. Tell her that it makes you uncomfortable to be in the know when she is not. Say that you hope she ultimately chooses to be with someone who is honest and authentic, but that it is her choice alone to make.

Q. I think my 38-year-old married daughter may be descending into mental illness. She takes any small criticism or piece of advice and turns it into an all-out war, attacking all of those around her.

During these episodes, which may last for days or weeks, she is convinced that everyone is against her and that I am the all-time worst mother in the world. She calls everyone in the family and argues her case. The family calls me to find out what is wrong with her.

She has had a very good job for about 10 years, but I don’t know how long it can last. She has had to leave work on occasions because she just can’t hold it together. She also sends me nasty and hurtful e-mails.

I honestly don’t know how her husband of 10 years stands it because he is the subject of her wrath too. The only one she doesn’t attack is my 11-year-old grandson. I adore him, and he is a witness to all of this.

I have suggested counseling, but she refuses, saying that they are all against her. I have suggested antidepressants, which put her into attack mode again.

When she is not like this, she is fun and personable — and everyone likes her a lot. Any suggestions?

A. I agree that your daughter’s behavior could be an indication that she is mentally ill. Realistically, you cannot force another adult into treatment. Because of this, you need to do everything possible to steel yourself to her rages and cushion your grandson from the fallout of life with someone who is unstable. Continue to be supportive of her husband.

Your reaction to your daughter should be consistent: “You are raging; I don’t like it. I’m worried about you. I hope you will get help. You can feel better if you get a diagnosis and treatment.” Beyond that, you don’t have to explain her behavior to other people. Continue to be an understanding, stable, loving and supportive grandmother.

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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