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Published December 27, 2010, 12:00 AM

Annie's Mailbox: Being supportive doesn’t mean you are enabling

Dear Annie: I need to know how to react to my 32-year-old daughter when she tells me about what her emotionally abusive husband has said or done to her.

By: Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, INFORUM

Dear Annie: I need to know how to react to my 32-year-old daughter when she tells me about what her emotionally abusive husband has said or done to her.

“Joan” is a nurse at a hospital. Her domineering husband, “Ray,” is currently unemployed. The two of them are like oil and water. If she says the sky is blue, he says it is raining. The same goes for their parenting styles. Their 3-year-old daughter has frequent tantrums. Joan started taking away the child’s bottle because Ray was putting baby food into it so he wouldn’t have to feed her. Joan wants to start potty training, but Ray says he doesn’t have the time and wants to keep her in a diaper.

Joan has become very passive. Ray has convinced her that she can’t drive the baby to my house (150 miles away) because she will surely have an accident and kill them both. If I want to see my daughter and granddaughter, I have to go there.

I understand these are control issues. I just don’t know what to say when Joan calls and repeats these things. I want to help her, but my friends say I enable her to stay with Ray by making things better for her. I love them and want to do what is best. Please advise. – Sad Grammy

Dear Grammy: It is not enabling if you are providing a shoulder to lean on. Abusers manipulate their victims in order to make them feel helpless, incompetent and dependent. It is especially difficult when there are children and a parent feels reluctant to upset the marriage. Your visits and phone calls may be the lifeline Joan needs to find the strength to get help, and we hope you will encourage her to do so. Meanwhile, reinforce your daughter’s confidence in her ability to stand up for herself.


Dear Annie: Every year, our church has a veterans’ service for our members who have served, and each year, they are asked to come forward for recognition. At that time, I cannot help but stand and applaud them. However, I feel an urge to salute, but I am not a veteran and don’t know if this is proper. For that matter, when I thank vets at different times during the year, would it be proper to salute, or should I simply say thanks and shake their hand? – Lockport, N.Y.

Dear Lockport: As a civilian, there is no law prohibiting you from saluting, but not all veterans appreciate such a gesture from someone who has not served. Since you have no way of knowing whether a serviceperson or veteran would find this presumptuous, we recommend a thank you and a handshake.


Dear Annie: This is in response to “Hurt and Confused in Kentucky,” who says her husband seems uninterested in intimacy now that she’s had a baby.

I’ll bet she has changed, as well. She probably no longer acts like the sexy, playful woman he married. Does she still take the time to fix herself up for him? Does she treat him with respect and adoration like before? Is everything about the baby? Does she expect her husband to take over child care duties as soon as he walks in after a full day of work? Does she complain and whine? Is she bossy?

Seriously, this isn’t just about her husband not having sex with her. The poor guy is also “Hurt and Confused in Kentucky” – One who Sees it from the Outside

Dear Outside: It is true that men as well as women can be overwhelmed by the birth of a child, and you’ve raised some excellent points. However, when a man refuses to have sex with his wife and prefers to masturbate to pornography, there is usually more going on. We hope the two of them can get to the bottom of it.


Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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