Ask Amy: Sometimes it’s OK to take sides during a divorce

Dear Amy: Recently, you’ve run a few questions regarding how people should notify others (family members and in-laws) that they are seeking a divorce.

Your thoughts and insights were helpful.

I’m wondering how to handle the news of a divorce when it isn’t a mutual decision.

My son is struggling emotionally because his wife has chosen to end the marriage. I have no details about her reasons and can’t possibly make a judgment as to how valid her reasons might be.

I feel close with both my son and daughter-in-law, and I’d like to be there for both of them.

But how do I approach my daughter-in-law without sounding like I’m questioning her decision or taking sides?

– Unsure in Upstate NY

Dear Unsure: Your daughter-in-law might not want to be in close touch right now. Try not to take this personally – if she has chosen to leave the marriage, her instinct could be to also distance herself from you and other family members.

This is not a laudable instinct, but a common one.

You could call or write to say, “I’m so sorry to hear that you and Chas are parting. This is very sad news for us. I want you to know that I will always be grateful for your presence in our family; we had some very good times together, and I hope that we can stay in touch moving forward.” Leave the door open for contact and a cordial friendship – if all parties are willing and able.

Speaking honestly and from personal experience, this might be a time to take sides – not in an angry way, but in a way that conveys your support and loyalty toward your son. Her parents will likely do the same.

You need to draw in close with your son to make sure that he feels emotionally supported during what will be a very painful time in his life.

Do not pry for details or criticize your daughter-in-law.

Do listen with compassion, and offer that special reassurance that parents can give – that time will help to heal his wound, and that you will always be in his corner.

Dear Amy: Last week I discovered that my boyfriend of over two years cheated on me while on vacation. He kissed a woman at a bar, and they’d been texting back and forth afterward.

He tried to keep this a secret until I saw her messages ping on his phone.

When I asked him about it, he lied, until I demanded that he show me the texts.

I’m in my late 20s and he’s in his early 30s. We had been living together for eight months. This has left me reeling.

I never used to snoop on his phone or act jealous, and yet I was still cheated on!

I left him and moved my things to my parents’ house.

He’s begging me to come back and insisting that he made a huge mistake.

In 2020, I broke up with him on two separate occasions – once because of a big lie he told, and the second time because I became aware that we had major differences.

Both times I took him back, and I thought things were mostly good, until now.

I don’t think I’m going to take him back.

I hear about infidelity all the time. I just don’t want something like this to ever happen to me.

Do you have advice for how I can move forward?

– Devastated

Dear Devastated: I can’t adjudicate whether your boyfriend’s behavior constitutes infidelity, but – regardless – you two do have an overall unstable dynamic. Three big breakups over a two-year time span is a lot. Jealousy and snooping is not healthy.

The way to move forward now is to put one step in front of the other. Each step marks progress, and each step creates distance and perspective.

It’s a cliché (because it’s true!) but time is the great healer. Lean on your folks and friendships, pour your thoughts into a journal, and dive into your work and creative life.

Dear Amy: Your answer to “Done with Religion” is what’s wrong with this country today! This person, an atheist, was invited to a Bar Mitzvah and didn’t want to go. What’s wrong with attending and being tolerant, for the sake of friendships?

– Upset

Dear Upset: “Done with Religion” had attended many religious ceremonies over the years and didn’t want to do so anymore. Declining to attend is not being intolerant; it is simply exercising an individual’s right to make choices.

You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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