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Hi, Carolyn My husband is insanely attached to his parents. They’ve been married 66 years and have four kids. He’s the only one who actually takes care of them; if we’re on vacation, he has to make arrangements for one or two of his siblings to come look after them. My husband is then constantly texting with his siblings, and the barrage of texts from them never stops. Otherwise they don’t really talk.

His father has been nasty to me many a time. My husband always looked the other way. He finally admitted his father is a jerk, but he keeps catering to his father’s every passive-aggressive whim.

We’ve been to counseling and he said he’d work on things, but his actions speak louder than words. He gets upset when I ask for boundaries: “They are my family — what am I supposed to do?”

Oh and by the way, we don’t have kids; when that topic came up, my husband said, “If we have a kid, who’ll take care of my parents?”

How do I navigate this tricky situation? I don’t want them out of our life, but I do want them out of our marriage.

The hubs was married before and that didn’t last ... wonder why. — At a Loss

Answer • They will be out of your marriage when they die, or when your husband is ready to seek help for real.

And even if your marriage manages to survive his parents, the dysfunction they raised their son to treat as normal — and to internalize as his marching orders — will outlive them, surviving in him until he sees fit to exorcise it.

I don’t like his chances for doing that. Not when he thinks there’s anything normal or healthy about opting out of his own children because his duty is to remain a child himself.

There are countless good reasons not to have kids; being too enmeshed to believe they’re possible is not one of them.

Seriously — if that conversation with you wasn’t enough to trigger in him a this-is-not-normal epiphany, then I don’t know what will.

Perhaps it’ll take a second divorce.

For your part, it’s worth asking yourself why you didn’t put your foot down then — or earlier, well before marrying this.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you weren’t in a position to see this coming, for whatever reason; I’m sorry you’re unhappy; I’m sorry your in-laws are so twisted; I’m sorry they ensnared your husband; I’m sorry he’s not even able to see they did that. This is a sad situation all around. What it doesn’t appear to be, though, is “tricky.” The facts as you lay them out couldn’t get much simpler or clearer: His parents are your husband’s top priority, and he doesn’t intend to change that.

Please give counseling another try, except go alone. The question you were asking the first time — “How do we fix our marriage?” — took for granted that your husband agreed there was something to fix and was willing to fix it. Now you know you’re the only one willing to change, so you have new questions to answer: “How did I get here, and can I make it a place I want to stay?”