Ask Amy

Motherly advice: Marry her or dump her

Q. I have raised an idiot, albeit a kindhearted one. Two years ago, my then 34-year-old son got engaged to an attractive, 30-year-old, college-educated woman.

They moved to another city where my son restarted his mortgage business, which had grown moribund in the stagnant economy. His father and I have been helping him financially, but now he is getting back on his feet.

While he has struggled financially, his fiancée has steadfastly refused to look for a job. He continues to pay her bills, including her college loans.


I have asked him to either set the date or end the relationship, but he seems incapable of doing either. I realize that marrying her will not fix her work ethic, but he will also not move on.

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I am eager to see some grandchildren — I just celebrated my 70th birthday. It is heartbreaking to see him working 12-hour days six days a week, returning home to help get dinner ready — and she refuses to help him financially.

To me, marriage is a partnership and she does not seem to be playing her part in this relationship.

Failed Mother

A. On the one hand, this really doesn’t have anything to do with you. On the other, your choices definitely influence your son. You refer to him as a kindhearted idiot, and he is doing his best to fulfill the role you have assigned to him.

If you had not helped him financially, for instance, he might have expected and required more of his fiancée. And your insistence that he make a choice between a lifetime of marriage and children (with someone you clearly don’t think is deserving) or ditching her altogether could be exactly what is keeping him in limbo now.


Back off. Do not interfere. You do not have an automatic right to have grandchildren bestowed upon you on your timetable — or at all.

Q. I have had an up-and-down relationship with my husband’s parents for the last 10 years; we don’t see each other often. Despite my attempts to make things harmonious, I have always felt like an outsider.

They occasionally curtly e-mail me to request photos and rarely thank me after receiving them.

It happened again this Halloween: I took a photo of my child in costume, and texted it to them right away, as I have learned that this is important to them. They never received the text, and I got an impersonal e-mail request for a photo a few days later. I resent it. Once again, none of their e-mails had a please, a thank-you, or a “Hello, how are things going with you guys?”

My husband is not particularly close to them either, so I’m not sure they would treat him much differently. But he rarely takes photos, so the photo-sending falls to me.


Should I try to communicate how undervalued and unappreciated this makes me feel, or try not to let it bother me?

Unhappy Shutterbug

A. You have something your in-laws want, and if you want to continue providing photographs but change the dynamic, you may be able to retrain them.

Try attaching some questions along with the next photo you send. Example: “Is this the cutest thing ever?” “How are you doing these days?” “Do you have any photos of Bob from childhood you could send?”

If you try this and the dynamic does not change to your satisfaction, you can let them know, “I never hear back from you after I’ve sent photos, so now I don’t have much motivation to continue.”

Amy Dickinson can be reached at