Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:30 pm
Dear Annie: For 10 years, I’ve bitten my lip while my mother-in-law says things that are emotionally abusive and critical. She tells me she’ll never accept me, I need to lose weight, I’ll be a horrible mother when I have children, etc. Dealing with her is a constant challenge because no one puts her in her place. The entire family remains silent while she rips into people.
My approach has been to kill her with kindness. But when she is allowed to say whatever she feels, her meanness only gets worse. Recently, she said my husband will never want to have children with me. Did I mention she says these things when my husband is not present?
Is it OK to tell her such comments are not acceptable, or should I just put up with them? I am concerned because my husband and I are talking about starting a family. Mom already is disrespectful, and the comments aren’t directed only toward adults. I don’t want my children to have to “put up with her.” What can I do? — Desperate Daughter-in-Law
Dear Desperate: Killing someone with kindness doesn’t mean you have to tolerate unacceptable behavior. It’s OK to set boundaries. If Mom says something nasty, reply sweetly, “I see you aren’t feeling well, so I’ll talk to you another time,” then hang up the phone or leave. Always remain polite. Don’t yell or be nasty in return. Simply show her you won’t stick around to be abused. And your husband must back you up. When you have children, the consequences will be much clearer to her and she may behave better. If not, at least you won’t be sitting there taking it.
Dear Annie: My boss sent me a message that my perfume is too strong. According to him, somebody complained that my scent brings on a headache.
I’m sure this isn’t the case. I hate people who wear strong perfume, so I use only a small amount. The scent makes me feel great, but I never overdo it. No one else has ever said anything about my perfume.
I’m so angry. Should I find out who the “somebody” is who’s spreading this rumor? Please give me your advice. — Seoul, South Korea
Dear Seoul: We don’t believe anyone is spreading a rumor. You may not think you are using too much perfume, but some people are so sensitive that even a tiny drop can bring on a reaction. A healthy work environment is good for all employees, and it would be best to save the perfume for special occasions.
Dear Annie: You told “Choosing Happiness” that living with a person who is bipolar can be exhausting and stressful, and that you could not fault her for wanting to make her life better.
Please don’t make generalizations about people with bipolar disorder or those who live with them. Many bipolar patients comply 100 percent with doctor’s recommendations and medications and have rich, fulfilling lives. Look around at your colleagues, friends and family. You may be surprised to know that some may be managing this illness and seem perfectly “normal” to you. — Bipolar and Bountiful
Dear Bipolar: The only one making generalizations is you. “Choosing” has a husband who is bipolar, refuses to get help and has become abusive. She is already in the process of divorcing him, not because he is bipolar, but because he is noncompliant and treating her abysmally. Bipolar disorder is difficult, but with treatment it is manageable, and you are right that those with the illness can lead rich, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing. Too many cannot see that their illness is a problem for themselves and those who love them. When this type of relationship becomes abusive and the abuser is not interested in getting help, it’s time to get out.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.30.08