Life Advice



Ask Amy: Former in-law’s contact riles hurt feelings

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I had a wonderful relationship with my in-laws while my ex-husband and I were married. However, following our divorce, he and I no longer speak.

He’s also asked me NOT to reach out or talk to his family.

His sister and his father have respected his wishes and have never reached out to me. Honestly, I found this very hurtful.

His mother called a few times over the past year, mostly around the holidays, and each time it was difficult and painful to talk to her.

I never initiated any communication.

At Christmas she left me a voicemail crying about how much she missed me and missed having her family together. She implied that I wasn’t doing well, and that hurt my feelings, too.

I did not call her back and have not talked to her since.

Around Easter, she sent a card, noting how much she missed me and how much she loved me.

Again, I did not respond, but she did ask my son during a visit if I ever received a card from her. She did the same on Mother’s Day.

I find it to be very hurtful.

I also want to lash out AT her and let her know just exactly how much pain, abuse and toxic behavior her son put me through.

I know it’s not right to do that, but I don’t know how to handle this.

Should I continue to ignore the cards? Send them back, marked “return to sender”,

or should I send her a response, politely telling her goodbye?

– Upset Ex

Dear Ex: It hurt when your former father and sister-in-law respected your ex’s demand and didn’t contact you. Your former mother-in-law is defying her son’s demand. This hurts, too.

It’s like the song says: Love hurts. Lost love hurts more.

Your former mother-in-law may be aware of what a toxic jerk her son is, and this is her way of trying to make amends. Her life might have been better with you on the scene to smooth over the family’s rough dynamic. She might have missed opportunities to defy him and defend you, and she is trying to make up for that now.

Plus, you were part of her family, and she is experiencing a loss that looms very large for her.

You seem indifferent to the possibility that your lack of response is punishing her.


You should respond now by sending her a card, thanking her for years of friendship and for being a good grandparent to your child.

You could include a gentle goodbye: “Hearing from you makes me feel sad, but your son has asked that I not be in touch with your family, and (aside from this note) I have made a decision not to defy him. That’s why I haven’t responded to you. I’m going to say goodbye with appreciation. Know that I am doing well, and I wish you all the very best.”

Dear Amy: We live in the South, where many people have swimming pools (we don’t).

We’ve known our neighbor “Ned” ever since we moved in, seven years ago. He is middle-aged and single. We’re friendly, but not close friends.

He has a nice pool, and obviously this is a huge draw for our kids, who are 7 and 11.

Ned has been super-nice about his pool and has let the kids know that they are welcome to use it, any time.

Now that our daughter is 11, she wants to go over there by herself. Ned says that’s fine and he’ll keep an eye on her while she’s there.

This doesn’t feel right, but our daughter is pressuring us, and we’re not sure what to do.

– Puzzled Parents

Dear Puzzled: That’s a solid “no.” You do not want your children hanging out at an adult neighbor’s house without a parent also being physically present.

They should also never go to a private swimming pool without your direct supervision, and because “Ned” seems unable or unwilling to establish boundaries, you must. There are affordable above-ground pools; you should consider investing in one for your own yard.

Dear Amy: “Tired of Hosting” hosted playdates at her house, and other parents never reciprocated.

This happened to me, too. In our upscale neighborhood, I realize in retrospect that I was a much younger mother and honestly – I was used as a babysitting and nanny service. I wish I’d had a backbone.

– Still Tired

Dear Tired: I assume the kids you hosted are grateful – even if their parents aren’t.


(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.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



9 Chickweed Lane The Other Coast Herb and Jamaal Carpe Diem Dave Whamond Gary Markstein