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Ask Ellie: Relatives should help struggling couple, for children's sake

Whenever adults are aware of innocent children needing their safety assured, they can turn their compassion to looking into possible solutions, and help improve the children’s current lives and futures

Dear Ellie: A young couple within my extended family, both in their 20s, have two very young children, and a tumultuous relationship. Coming from abusive families, the couple are both very affected by this. They’re immature and inexperienced in relationships. They’re also constantly fighting in front of the children, and it gets physical.

I tried to talk to both. He quit his job because they were fighting and she left, so he had to stay home to take care of the kids. They’re behind on their bills. He’s depressed and thinks there’s no way out of this mess.

So I pulled some family together, we paid some of their debts, I’m offering to pay for more help so he can find work. But the wife’s now working part-time, not earning much but insisting that he stay home with the kids. I’m concerned about them. I advised the wife to go to a shelter.

I’m trying to get a therapist for the young man but he has no car, and also can’t communicate online because he can’t afford a laptop. I need your advice.

Concerned and Exhausted

You’re involved in this young couple’s turbulent life and the worrisome situation for their children because of your genuine concerns. With their debts larger than her income, when fights keep happening because it’s what they learned in their parents’ home, every bit of help is crucially needed.

But finding the right help is what now matters. Seeing a therapist would be a good start, but if the young man is depressed, he might refuse. Instead, contact a therapist yourself, present the problems you’ve raised here, and ask what’s the best route to help them. Also, ask how to get him access to medical help soon for his depression.

If you tell him you’re doing this for the children’s sakes, you’ll likely get his consent to attend, if you accompany him with your laptop to a next online session. Then, let the professional do the work of getting him to talk and consider alternatives to the present crisis. Ask for help getting him access to medical help for his depression.

Also, call on some relatives who’d helped before — this time about seeking healthy solutions, not money. Someone needs to explore where to get safe, low-cost accommodation for women and children, or for the family (if the wife is willing to join them). If she’s through with their common-law relationship, they’ll still need help getting a separation agreement that protects both parents’ rights, and the children’s safety.

It’s a lot to ask of relatives, but innocent children at risk deserve the caring and efforts that could change otherwise too-predictable futures.

Feedback regarding reader 2’s recommendation that alcoholic abusers read particular books (Jan. 27):

Reader: “I’m pleased that this particular approach worked for the letter-writer. His suggestion, however, that alcoholics must read three specific books he mentioned is likely a non-starter.

“First, you can never tell an alcoholic what to do. We’re rebellious by nature. We wouldn’t trust the claimed intellectual.

“The gentle approach, suggesting getting together with people like us, in a group setting of friendship and support, (which is Alcoholics’ Anonymous i.e., AA) is much easier to sell to an alcoholic.

“The “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous,” does have all the information that he was talking about, presented in a way that’s interesting within our limited attention span.”

Feedback regarding the man worried about having “a bleak future” because of his wife’s physical issues experiencing menopause over five years (Feb. 2):

Reader: “Has this man done any research on his own regarding menopause and its potential effects on women? Have the couple sought any counselling together? Has he reached out on his own to her doctor for advice (not prying, just how to handle the situation)?

“But it sounds like he’s just looking for an “excuse” to leave the marriage.

“What’s not mentioned is what their “child” (in post-secondary education) may think of the father’s response.

“Has he considered that their child could take the mother’s side regarding her response to her physical health, and that, suddenly, the letter-writer could find himself estranged from his entire family?

“Has he also considered this: What about when HIS body starts changing?

“I’m a man who thinks this husband is extremely self-centered.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Whenever adults are aware of innocent children needing their safety assured, they can turn their compassion to looking into possible solutions, and help improve the children’s current lives and futures.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].