DEAR AMY: My fiancee's parents announced this weekend that they are separating. Or, as my fiancee puts it, her mother is leaving and breaking her father's heart.
The husband's philosophy is that he can't limit himself to being with one person. He enjoys a polyamorous lifestyle where he has a steady wife and various girlfriends.
The husband talked the wife into accepting the poly lifestyle, and because she is a people pleaser, she gave it a good-faith effort for several years.
The wife found the husband's lifestyle increasingly difficult to cope with. She would like to return to a monogamous lifestyle where she doesn't need to compete with other women or feel jealous of his time.
Even though she says she is leaving, I believe she is open to the idea that they might still reconcile, but she feels like he needs to make an effort. When I read between those lines, I think she wants to ask him to get rid of his girlfriend and give up the poly lifestyle.
However, I don't think she communicates this clearly to him. I don't know if he would give up the girlfriend for his wife, but in the wife's eyes, it is the only way that they can be together. Would it be appropriate to privately explain to him what he should do to get her back? He is clearly distraught over losing her and does not appear to know what to do.
— Concerned Fiance
DEAR CONCERNED: This couple's "poly" lifestyle apparently has extended to you, and now me. Because here we are, sharing their private sexual history, interpreting their actions and contemplating choices that only this couple can make on their own behalf. Simply put: It is not your business to fix your future in-laws' marriage.
If this husband comes to you, saying, "What can I do to get my wife back?" you should definitely tell him what you think. If your fiancee (or her mother) asks you to join them in a family meeting to discuss this situation, as a future family member, you should do so.
Otherwise, unless you are a trained marriage counselor and want to take them on as clients, you should let this family work it out. Offer emotional support to each family member, and do your best not to take sides.
DEAR AMY: My son has presented me with a granddaughter. Unfortunately, he has nothing to do with the mother or child, other than paying child support.
I have since met the mother and find her to be very pleasant. She will be a good mother to my granddaughter. She also has a 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, whom I have not met.
Christmas is coming. What do I do about gifts? I don't want to only give to my granddaughter; I'd like to recognize the whole family. Do you have any suggestions? We are retired, so it needs to be something within our modest income.
DEAR GRANDMOTHER: I love your spirit and determination to be the best family member you can be to people your son has rejected. A nice gift for this mother and children might be to give them an annual membership for a local museum, science center or zoo, something the mom and kids can enjoy together.
Otherwise, I suggest a warmly written card for the mother, a book for the 10-year-old, and a wooden toy for the youngest. For adolescent girls, I love the "Skye O'Shea" books by author Megan Shull (2003, American Girl).
Bless you, and all the grandparents out there who struggle to maintain positive relationships with all the children in their lives. You are family heroes.
DEAR AMY: My heart broke for "Sad," whose live-in guy went out drinking several times a week. She said her instinct was to "run for the hills." I hope she does. I lived with a heavy drinker for years. When he wouldn't seek help, I finally had to leave.
DEAR SOBER: Many people responded with similar stories.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.