Dear Emuna,

I’m concerned about a girlfriend of mine. Her husband is very controlling. She can’t make a move without getting his permission. And she always seems very nervous about it. She does all the work around the house and, if he is sleeping, she has to take her small children out of the house so that it doesn’t bother him. He never performs the same courtesy for her. I’m worried that she might be in an abusive situation. What should I do?

Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned Friend,

Assuming that you are in fact the friend and “friend” isn’t code for you, the situation is a little complicated. You don’t know for sure that it is an abusive relationship. Although it may not be the way that you and your husband function or the way that you think is best, it may work for them. They may be happy with the situation or at least function productively. So tread slowly and carefully.

There are some specific red flags for abusive relationships (get yourself a copy of “A Diamond for Your Daughter” and read chapter 6) such as demeaning or disrespectful comments, attitudes or opinions, rudeness, arrogance and a sense of entitlement, blaming others for problems, refusing to take responsibility, always has to be in charge and be right, argumentative, hostile, hypersensitive and overly reactive – to name a few. Do you see these behaviors in your friend’s husband? Even if they exist, you may not see them because abusers are very talented at hiding it. They are often the people you would least suspect – community leaders, doctors, lawyers, the “nicest guy”…

Perhaps you could leave a copy of the book lying around when she comes over, perhaps you could discuss what you read or mention another situation of domestic violence that you heard about. Make yourself a safe, non-judgmental ear. In the end, it will be up to her to act if there is in fact abuse. You should continue to be sensitive to her conversation and to watch for any unexplained bruises, broken bones etc. or any unusual cover-up clothing (turtlenecks in the summer). If you have reason to believe that your suspicions are, God forbid, correct, you should contact an expert immediately. The situation is too dangerous for you to deal with on your own. A life could literally be at stake.

Try contacting the completely confidential hotline at Shalom Task Force: 718-337-3700 or 888-883-3323. I hope and pray that you are wrong.

Over-Demanding Father

Dear Emuna,

My father is very demanding – not just emotionally but materially as well. He is 75 years old and in good health and he wants me to provide for his every physical desire – new clothes, a trip to Europe, dinner in fancy restaurants. He claims that I owe to him for the time, effort and resources he invested in raising me and that, to quote him, “It’s payback time.” I’m happy to be generous to him and grateful to have the resources to do so. But his demands never end and they are taking significant time away from my family responsibilities. Whatever I do is never enough and he’s always on to the next thing. What should I do?

Dutiful Son

Dear Dutiful Son,

It sounds like you are. It sounds like you are appreciative and respective and giving, everything a parent wants their child to be and for which most of us say, “What more could I ask for?” But your father does not seem to be like “most of us.” He seems to want more and more and more.

You certainly owe him a debt of gratitude but you do not need to satisfy his every whim. It’s not even clear whether that would be good for him. You want to be generous and thoughtful but you don’t need to be a shmatte or on-call 24/7.

The biggest problem here seems to be that it is taking you away from your family. Your family, your wife and your children, are your priority. They come first. If your father, God forbid, needed food, clothing or shelter, you would run to assist him but you do not need to run to send him on an all-expenses paid trip to Europe. You can, maybe it would even be a nice gesture, but you are not obligated. It is destructive to your relationship for your father to play the payback card and it will ultimately destroy it. It is kinder to say no. If you say yes all the time, you will end up resenting him and the relationship will be damaged.

If you set healthy boundaries, then your relationship will stay on an even keel and you will be able to enjoy each other more. So don’t be afraid to put your foot down; the irony is that you will have a better relationship and greater closeness because of it.

Vying for Attention

Dear Emuna,

I am the youngest girl in my family and the only one still at home. I am finishing up 11th grade. I have one married sister who lives in the same city and has four yummy children. I know I sound selfish but they are ALWAYS at my house. I love them dearly but I feel that I never get time with just my parents or peace and quiet in my own home. I try to tell my parents but they are such doting grandparents they can’t begin to understand what I’m talking about. I don’t want to resent them but I’m beginning to. Any advice?

Baby of the Family

Dear Baby,

Believe it or not, I understand and appreciate your dilemma. It is not selfish to want some privacy in your own home. It is not selfish to want some private time with your parents. Young children (especially grandchildren!) are wonderful but they definitely are the stars of the show and it is hard for anyone else to get attention or to carry on an adult conversation.

Your desires are completely reasonable and I think your parents would understand if you present it to them the way you did to me. My guess is that you just allow the frustration to build and build until you finally explode in angry resentment which leaves your parents shocked and unhappy. But if you can find some quiet time (when the grandkids aren’t over!) to tell your parents how much your relationship with them (your parents) means to you and how much you miss having time with each other, I think they will find it hard to resist. It’s all in the timing and the tone of voice.