DEAR ABBY: My 25-year-old son, "Mitch," and his live-in girlfriend, "Mimi," just became engaged, and I'm really worried. They met in college, where Mimi admits she went to "get her MRS."
When Mitch took a job in another state and started working on his graduate degree, Mimi tagged along. At first she had her own apartment. But since she "couldn't afford" a car, Mitch drove her to and from work every day. Then she got a job where he worked, and they began having lunch together every day to the exclusion of co-workers.
Two years later, Mimi still has no car of her own in a state where cars are a necessity. In addition, she's "just so tired" after her "long" 7 1/2-hour day that she "just can't manage to cook," so they either go out or Mitch does the cooking, too.
Abby, my son is lean, outgoing, into sports and martial arts. Mimi is obese and lethargic. She constantly complains about her aches and pains and other people. She has no hobbies and spends every night watching television.
I'm afraid this is somehow my fault. Mitch's mother was "high maintenance." I modeled caretaking for him in his early years when she and I were married -- we have been divorced for more than 10 years -- but never to this extent. Now Mimi has announced she needs surgery and pain-killers because she's got a bad back, and "exercise doesn't work." (How could it? She'd have to actually move!)
I'm desperate to have a father-son talk about the path Mitch seems to be heading down, but I also know I risk alienating him, maybe permanently. Should I keep my mouth shut, or what? -- PANICKED POP IN PAWTUCKET
DEAR PANICKED POP: Talk to your son, but make absolutely sure that when you do, it is not perceived as an attack on his fiancee. Instead, discuss the mistakes you made during your marriage to Mitch's mother, which fostered her dependence on you -- and which Mitch seems to be mirroring with Mimi. However, do it with a light touch, and with none of the contempt for her that you have displayed in your letter -- or it could, indeed, negatively affect your relationship with your son.