DEAR HARRIETTE: My 30-year-old son is in an abusive marriage. His wife hits him, locks him out of the house, calls him humiliating names and has alienated him from his friends and family. This has caused him to lose 50 pounds, and he has developed dangerous stress-related symptoms. He’s a shell of the person he once was. He acts confused and disoriented, rather than our smart, capable and popular son. It’s heartbreaking. He has tried to leave her, but she gets hysterical, threatens suicide and begs him to return. He gives in.
They have three small children who witness this abuse. He’s worried about the kids, but is so broken down he doesn’t feel capable of caring for them on his own. We’ve told him we will care for them, but he tells us it’s too much of a burden. My daughter-in-law refused to attend counseling after one session. My son continues to go on his own. It’s hard for us to be good in-laws when we’re aware of what’s going on. She often blows up at us if we try to talk about it. -- How to Help My Son, Raleigh, North Carolina
DEAR HOW TO HELP MY SON: Convince your son to report his wife to the police the next time she abuses him. In order for him to have a chance of breaking free from her and getting custody of the children, he will have to prove her abuse. He MUST report her. When she hurts him physically, he should take photos to document his injuries. The way out for him, unfortunately, will be through the legal system. He should also work to ensure that he has his money in order. He has you to help, which is great. You also should be prepared to testify on his behalf and against her, based on facts.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just went to pick up a prescription at my local pharmacy, and I sat down at a blood-pressure machine. It says that I am obese. I know I have gained weight, but that was a shocker. I thought I was a little bit overweight -- but not according to this machine. I have always had a hard time working out and sticking to it. I need to take my health seriously. How can I get motivated? I have two small children. I need to be healthy for them. -- Fighting Obesity, Washington, D.C.
DEAR FIGHTING OBESITY: Start with a complete physical with your doctor. Do blood work to determine your health status, and mention any concerns you may have. Ask for a nutritionist to guide you on healthy, low-calorie eating. Join an exercise class or go to the gym. See if a neighbor or friend wants to buddy with you to work out. Having support can sometimes help you to develop discipline. Let your children be your motivation. If you want to live a healthy life to be able to provide for them, post their photos in a prominent place with a note saying, “Do it for them!” Keep a journal that records your successes and setbacks. Give yourself goals for fitness and health improvements. This will help you to stay focused.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)