Life Advice



Ask Amy: Private disclosure puts in-law in the middle

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

I don’t think it would be fruitful for you to attempt to mediate with her mother, but because you are married to her brother, and he blames his sister for her relationship problems, you should encourage her to disclose this to him.

You could also ask her if she would like your help in talking to him. Perhaps with you there, she would feel safer and supported.

When your mother-in-law queries you about why her daughter is so distant, you should respond: “You are really asking the wrong person. I hope you two can work things out.”

Dear Amy: My son will turn 35 this summer. We have been estranged for three years.

He is an only child who had a nice, safe, happy childhood with no abuse. We were always very close. He got married and moved away 10 years ago. After he moved, I became aware of some mental health issues and substance abuse.

He was unemployed and spiraling.


Over the years I loaned him a lot of money that he never paid back, so when he asked for a very large sum three years ago and I said no, he called me every foul word under the sun and cut me out of his life.

I've struggled to move on without him and am managing, at least until people who know I have a son but don't know about the estrangement, press me for updates on how he is, where he lives, what he does, etc.

I find myself lying to give them a "normal" story.

Can you advise me on an answer for these people that ends the conversation, but isn't rude? I don't want to tell them the truth because this is a very personal story.


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