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Ask Amy

Parents fret their son is ‘settling’

Q. Our well-educated, 33-year-old son is planning to marry a 30-year-old woman in two months. She is extremely quiet and only talks when asked a direct question. She doesn’t cook, clean, buy groceries, or do any household chores. Our son does everything. She is an only child and is extremely focused on her appearance.

Our son used to be well-groomed, outgoing, fun-loving, and thoughtful. Since he has been with this woman, he is now very quiet and doesn’t interact with family anymore unless we initiate contact. His appearance has gotten incredibly sloppy and he looks disheveled most of the time.

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The wedding is coming up and we are concerned about his happiness. We think he is settling and may be depressed. We definitely don’t think he is happy or acts like someone who is in love and excited about building a life with this woman.

We don’t want to comment for fear he’ll take it as criticism and cut off all contact with us, so we haven’t said anything. Is there anything we can do at this point or do we just need to stand by and watch this happen?

A. A common tactic of abusers is to isolate a partner from friends and family. Do your utmost to keep the door open, even if your contact is limited.

This does not mean that you have to stand by passively. Be honest and loving and express your concern, without casting blame or judgment.

His fiancee might be an abuser, the two of them might be using or abusing alcohol or drugs, he might be addicted to online gaming, sleep deprived for other reasons, depressed, or stressed.

As parents, you know your son intimately. You see changes that worry you. So you say, “Son, are you OK? You seem quite depressed and stressed and we’re worried about you. You don’t seem like yourself lately. What’s going on with you?”

Do not make any comments about his partner or suggest that he is “settling.” Stay as close as you can to this couple — but express your concern, privately, to your son.

Q. My family and I live next door to a baby boomer and her elderly mother. The daughter, on medical disability, lives in the home owned by her mother.

On a daily basis, our family overhears the daughter yelling at her mother over trivial issues. These yelling fits seem to be one-sided; we never overhear the mother’s voice. They include screaming, and stomping of feet so loud that our house shakes. This seems like an abusive relationship to us but we don’t know what action, if any, we should take to help the mother.

A. This is heartbreaking. Please intervene — even at a distance. When elderly people are isolated and unable to get help for themselves, concerned neighbors are often the first reporters of abuse. If there is pounding so loud your own house shakes, you should call the police.

The Administration on Aging hosts the National Center on Elder Abuse (, devoted to education and support for vulnerable elders. Their helpful and informative website will educate you about red flags of abuse and also lists state-by-state hot line numbers to call. You can report this anonymously and a caseworker will investigate.

Otherwise, the National Eldercare Locator has operators who can give you more information and refer you to local elder services: 800-677-1116.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.
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