Ask Amy

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 10:05pm

DEAR AMY: I have a sister-in-law who in many areas of her life is outstanding.

One of her darker sides is in her choice of men.

She was recently beaten up by her boyfriend, who broke her clavicle.

This put the whole family into turmoil as police, a district attorney and attorneys got involved. Six weeks later, it has come to light that she has gone on a weekend trip to the beach with the abusive boyfriend.

I feel he is duping her to get the charges dropped.

This isn't the first time the family has endured this cycle with her and other boyfriends.

My wife (her sister) wants to cut her off from our children, and my brother-in-law is barring her from his wedding.

Should we sever ties with her — or stand by and let it play out because she is an adult?

— Frustrated in Portland

DEAR FRUSTRATED: The reality of severing family ties is that your sister-in-law will have no support to make the extreme changes she needs to make to leave this violent relationship.

I can understand why your wife doesn't want the kids to be embroiled in this extreme drama, but the flip side is that relating to these children may provide an inspiration or incentive toward change.

I can also understand why your sister-in-law's violent partner would be barred from a family wedding, but I wonder about the choice to exclude her.

A family meeting is in order. All of the adults should gather to present a calm, loving, united front. Urge her to get professional help. Give her the name and number of a local therapist, as well as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, thehotline.org, 800-799-SAFE for her to carry with her.

Encourage her to see the legal process through.

You should keep the door (figuratively) propped open — not for family members to leap in and save her over and over again, but to demonstrate your concern and compassion.

Don't abandon her, but know that you cannot rescue her either. She must take the steps to rescue herself.

DEAR AMY: Last month we discovered that my brother has throat cancer.

I had been feeling hopeful about his situation because he has some of the best health care in the country and has great insurance.

He's been a smoker most of his life and I had assumed that he had quit smoking after this diagnosis.

Last night, I asked my sister if other family members were smoking around our brother. She said they are all still smoking and so is he.

She said I shouldn't judge and essentially told me to butt out.

I'm wondering if my brother's smoking will compromise his treatment and would like to know if he has told his doctor that he is still smoking.

It's such a helpless feeling knowing that there's not anything I can do for him.

My belief is that God gives us free will, and if we choose to do something that harms us, it's our own fault.

I also was a smoker and quit because of my children.

— Sad Former Smoker

DEAR SAD: You can assume that your brother's smoking is a hugely negative factor in his overall health — and his current condition and treatment.

Smoking is an addiction. Your family members don't seem to be taking even minimal steps to try to beat this addiction for their own sake or for his sake.

There is nothing you can do about this, except to marvel at the destructive power of nicotine. Offer your brother your love and prayers.

DEAR AMY: I am 21. Before I went to college, my parents told me that if I moved home after college, I would be asked to pay rent.

Since I was going to be paying rent anyway, I got my own place right away — very modest and with roommates.

I urge parents to tell their children this. It pushes them to become independent.

I see my friends whose parents allow them to stay home indefinitely, and it is not doing them any favors in terms of motivation.

— Happy Renter

DEAR RENTER: I agree. Thank you.

Send questions via email to askamy@tribune.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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