Dear Annie: My 19-year-old daughter, “Shawna,” is dating an 18-year-old boy who is abusive of her.
She lives with him and his family. She has an 18-month-old son, and my wife and I have custody, not only because she felt she was too young to raise him, but because she doesn’t want him around her boyfriend or his family.
Since Shawna has been living there, she only talks to us when she needs something. We haven’t seen her in almost a month. We recently found out that she is drinking, doing drugs and stealing. She talks about suicide a lot and cuts herself.
She refuses to leave her boyfriend. He told her to choose between him and the baby, and she chose him. She has been seen with bruises on her, and the police have been called about their fighting several times. Last month, the boyfriend was arrested for theft and spent nine days in jail. While he was gone, Shawna was a totally different person. Then he threatened her, insisting she pay his bail by any means necessary, so she stole money from her grandmother. As soon as he was released, things went back to the way they were.
I have a protection order on this boy because of the threats he has made against my family and me. But what can we do to get help for Shawna? There has to be some way we can get her away from that mess before he beats her to a pulp or she kills herself. — Worried Dad in Gary, Ind.
Dear Dad: It is an unfortunate truth that once a child is a legal adult, there isn’t much you can do to protect them from a situation of their own choosing. We urge you to stay in touch with Shawna as much as possible and let her know you will be there for her when she needs you. Don’t criticize her abusive boyfriend, but do tell her she deserves to be treated better and you hope someday she will realize that for herself. Give her the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (the hotline.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). You also can contact them.
Dear Annie: Now that my state has legalized gay marriage, I have some etiquette questions. How do I address an invitation to a same-sex couple? Can I write “Mr. and Mr. John and James Doe”? Is it any different if one of them is a doctor? Would I simply write “Dr. and Mr. So and So” and ignore their gender? — Curious in New York
Dear Curious: For an informal invitation or letter, it is OK to leave out the “Mr. and Mr.” altogether and simply write, “John and James Doe,” on the assumption that one partner has taken the other’s name. If they have different last names, or if it is a formal invitation, they are addressed as “Mr. John Doe and Mr. James Smith.” (That solves the “Dr.” problem, as well.)
Dear Annie: “New Bride in the Midwest” is having trouble fielding nosy remarks from people about why she doesn’t have any children yet. She has already suffered two miscarriages.
She and her husband should attend a meeting of Resolve (resolve.org). This wonderful organization is a breath of fresh air to anyone having problems with infertility. The people there can answer myriad questions on many topics. They help to take away the loneliness of infertility. And they also give helpful suggestions about what to say when people ask why you haven’t had a baby yet. — New Yorker
Dear New Yorker: We have recommended Resolve in this column many times and appreciate the opportunity to do so again. Readers can find a support group in their area through the website or by writing them at 1760 Old Meadow Rd., Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102.