DEAR AMY: My sister has been emotionally abusing her husband for years. Recently, I learned from my brother-in-law that she has started to physically abuse him by slapping, biting and punching him. She expects my brother-in-law to meet unrealistic expectations, and when he does not meet them, she lashes out at him.
Whenever we have tried to talk to my sister, she becomes defensive and thinks we are blaming her.
We suspect that she may have a mental disorder. She blames my brother-in-law for the entirety of their problems and refuses to go to counseling, even though my brother-in-law is about to start going to counseling himself.
I am worried that my sister is escalating her violence toward her husband, and I also worry about their two young kids.
How can we encourage her to admit that she has problems and go to counseling, and how can I best support my brother-in-law and the children?
DEAR WORRIED: You may not be able to talk your sister into counseling, so you must focus your concern onto your brother-in-law and the kids.
They are victims of her rage and violence, and they need protection. Your brother-in-law should be prepared to take the kids and leave the home.
Counseling for him is a great idea, certainly if it helps clarify that he is a victim of domestic violence, but it might be too late to save this relationship. He should be counseled to call the police if his wife becomes physically violent. You should offer him emotional and other support to leave this dangerous relationship.
Counselors at the National Domestic Violence Hotline are available for all of you at 800-799-7233. Read more on the organization's Web site: www.ndvh.org.
DEAR AMY: In fall 2008, I started a new job working part time. I received a letter of agreement stating that I would receive two weeks of vacation annually.
Now my boss says she made a mistake and meant to write "one week" in the agreement. She says that in 2010 I should only receive one week off.
While I understand that she cannot do this legally, as we have a contract, my concern is diplomacy.
How can I best communicate with my boss — without creating a wedge between us — that our original agreement needs to stand?
I love my job, have a relatively good relationship with my boss and don't want to rock the boat during these economically challenging times.
— Seeking Diplomacy
DEAR SEEKING: Unfortunately, in professional as well as personal dynamics, when a person makes a mistake that adversely affects someone else's life, the person who made it will sometimes proceed to penalize the innocent victim further to prove that the mistake was somehow justified.
Realistically, there may be no way for you to win redress from your boss, even though you have a contract. You'll have to assess the dynamic carefully. You could be delicate and diplomatic, but your boss could still find a way to retaliate because no matter what you say, she will feel cornered.
If you choose to discuss this, you should start by asking a question: "Could you clarify for me what's going on with my vacation time?"
If she repeats that she made a mistake and doesn't offer to rectify it, tell her that you shouldn't be penalized for it and ask if there is another solution.
Your boss's error could be a bigger problem for her than you realize. Her own boss — if she has one — won't be thrilled at this pesky contractual problem.
Either she will find a way to make this right — or she'll make the problem go away by trying to make you go away.
You should proactively look for another job — just in case.
DEAR AMY: "Disturbed" was upset by the "cougar" craze.
Not all women who date younger men are cougars.
I am a 55-year-old widow, and when I began to date again men my own age never approached me.
I was asked out by younger men often, and although I was at first reluctant, I finally succumbed.
Love doesn't always have perfect timing.
Fortunately, I met a marvelous man whom I will marry soon and, yes, he is 23 years younger than me!
— More Kitty Than Cougar
DEAR KITTY: One quibble. Love does have perfect timing.
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