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Dear Amy: My mother-in-law is causing a rift in the family that's hurting my husband.

We haven't been married long, and his divorce was a contentious one. His ex managed to delay every step of the divorce and went after everything she could, including the house, which he ended up leaving to her just to bring the proceedings to an end.

My husband cried when he told his parents years ago how unhappy he was in the marriage, and his mother's response was only, "How will this affect the grandchildren?"

While they were divorcing, she took the grand "children" (they're twins in their early 20s) and their mother to Disney World. Most recently, she took her grandchildren out to dinner on their birthday with — you guessed it — the ex, and not her son/us.

My MIL claims she's afraid the ex will cut her and her husband off from their grandchildren, but this has been very hurtful to my husband. He feels like he doesn't have his own parents' support. (His father is passive and lets his wife do whatever she wants.)

Please advise us on what we can do.

Amy says: The way you describe this situation, your husband's ex is the gatekeeper, controlling access to his grown children — or at least, your mother-in-law perceives it that way.

Although her ongoing contact with your husband's ex makes you uncomfortable, you can't insist that it stop. You have no say in how she chooses to conduct this relationship.

Your husband should work on maintaining a relationship with his sons. If he has a good relationship with them, his mother might not have to go through his ex to spend time with her grandsons.

If the shoe fits ...

Dear Amy: My friend, "Candace," consistently says things about herself that aren't accurate. For example, she drinks over two bottles of wine every night and then trash talks a friend of hers for drinking too much.

She'll say things like, "I like my wine, but I'm not an alcoholic like 'Shelley.'" Or, "Shelley drinks too much and gets argumentative." (Candace does, too!)

I don't say anything, but I believe that she might take my silence as agreement. Do you have any suggestions on how to respond or push back politely?

Amy says: When Candace talks about Shelley's drinking, it provides an opening to segue to her drinking. She might be testing the waters to see if you will react.

Be respectful, concerned, frank and fair: "I know that Shelley's drinking bothers you, but I have to be honest and say that your drinking worries me."

The most important aspect of discussing your friend's drinking is for you to detach from your own desired outcome. Candace will not suddenly smack her head in awareness and run toward recovery. Denial is a powerful side effect of addiction.

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