Life Advice



Ask Amy: Mom’s needs must take a back seat

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My 57-year-old husband has stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer.

This is a terrible time for our family.

My focus is on my husband and our two grown sons.

Then there is my narcissistic, manipulative mother.

She's been my focus for several years because of many health issues.

Her health is currently stable, and she's not getting the attention she's used to.

She calls several times a day and is always crying and needing comfort.

I've finally stopped crying — until she calls.

She wants to have weekend get-togethers — every weekend — and gets mad when that doesn't happen.

I've told her that this isn't about her, and my husband isn't up to day-long gatherings. How do I make her understand that for the time being, we are only doing what he needs, and wants?

How can I make her understand that her "needing" to have weekend family gatherings isn't what's best for him, and her "needing" constant comforting isn't what my boys and I need?

– Struggling

Dear Struggling: You could assume that your mother already empirically understands that your husband’s needs must outweigh her own at this point. But if she has always been narcissistic and manipulative, your husband’s heartbreaking illness might cause her to simply up the ante, in terms of needing to catch – and keep – your attention.

You might do better if you shift your own focus away from trying to persuade her to become less selfish and more reasonable.

This is a heavy lift during a heavy time, but this might be the moment where you simply decide to let your mother have and handle her own feelings.

You’ve been concerned about her and compensating for her for a long time. You’ll have to try to switch gears.

Don’t say, “This isn’t about you, Mom,” because – for her – it will always be about her.

Find a way to say: “I hope you can figure out a way to handle your feelings. I can’t do that for you.”

Dear Amy: I recently reconnected with an old flame from nine years ago.

We talked for a few weeks, and then she asked (in her words) when I would “grace her with my presence.”

I live two hours away and I had plans for the following two weekends. I told her I could come to see her on the third weekend.

She said that was too long to wait, and so I changed my own plans to see her sooner.

The day of the planned meeting, she was supposed to text me a time and place to meet.

I texted her at noon asking about plans. She was getting her hair cut.


The day went by and I never heard from her until 11:30 that night, when she texted me, asking what I was up to, as if we didn't have plans.

I didn't respond. We haven't communicated since.

I don't understand what the point was of going through all of that if she didn't want to meet up — when it was her idea in the first place!

It would have been better just to cancel.

– I Don't Get It

Dear I Don’t Get It: I assume that this episode might have led you to recall why you and this woman broke up all those years ago.

Some people like to play games.

Some people are mind-numbingly inconsiderate.

Regardless of this woman’s motivations, you now have all the information you need.

Yours is not to reason why,

Yours is not to call, or text.

Yours is not to sit and cry,

Yours is just to say – “… next!”

Dear Amy: Like “Old Veteran,” I also served (Navy) during Vietnam, and after discharge I also hid my military service.

It took 50 years before I stopped being careful. I was shocked when somebody actually expressed appreciation for my service.

What made the difference was my discovery of a group on Facebook, The Fallen Outdoors — many thousands of proud veterans of all ages who love to hunt, fish and be outdoors —and who are eager to welcome and help each other at any time.

Now I am proud to be among the tiny minority of American citizens who have served in the military.

Yes, the "thank you for your service" makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I graciously accept the comment in honor of all our brothers and sisters who did not make it home, or did come home damaged in body, mind and soul.

– Old Vet, Now Proud

Dear Proud: Beautiful.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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