Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: My husband, “Fred,” is one of many siblings. His mother passed away several years ago. Since her death, his father’s negative and controlling nature has become amplified. He is verbally abusive and would never consider professional help. Dad is in his early 80s, and Fred says he has always been this way.
Family gatherings are made miserable by his bullying and picking on whomever he chooses to torment. He twists any attempt to discuss it. He is never at fault, he’s “only kidding,” and the other person is simply weak.
In recent months, Dad has felt free to taunt our children, attempting to create competition between the grandkids by showering some with large gifts and teasing the others about their cousins’ good fortune. When confronted, he claims that some grandkids are more deserving than others. He blatantly favors his daughters and their families, taking them on lavish vacations, setting up education funds, etc. He categorically denies ever having mistreated his sons’ children, and the sisters believe their dad. They have excoriated Fred via e-mail.
Although we’ve tried to be a dutiful family, helping out when needed and entertaining the relatives on our fair share of holidays, my husband has said “enough.” Fred has chosen to avoid all family gatherings where Dad is present. He won’t subject our kids to the verbal and emotional abuse that he endured his whole life. For months, we have had little contact with Dad or with Fred’s sisters. My kids miss their cousins.
The last time I talked with Dad, he hung up on me. How can I bring peace to this fractured family and keep our children safe? — Daughter-in-Law in Distress
Dear Distress: There are some relationships you cannot fix, especially when the other party is not cooperative. Your first obligation is to protect your family from those who treat them terribly. If your husband needs to limit contact with his father and sisters, please be supportive. You can try to get your children together with their cousins outside of family gatherings if their aunts are willing.
Dear Annie: At our recent wedding, we had 25 guests from the groom’s side of the family. Not one of them gave a gift. Is that normal? Should we mention it to the groom’s mother? — Just Wondering
Dear Wondering: Please don’t. While it is customary for people who attend a wedding to give a gift, it is poor manners to demand one. And it is quite possible these guests will send something at a later date.
Dear Annie: I read your response to “Can’t Handle Bedbugs,” who was unwilling to see her mother-in-law because she feared contracting bedbugs.
My daughter had bedbugs. We spent $1,000 to exterminate her small two-bedroom apartment. I can only imagine the cost to exterminate a house. It also introduced dangerous chemicals into her home. In addition, we spent hundreds of dollars cleaning all of the clothing and linens in the apartment. Add to that another couple hundred dollars to purchase bedbug-proof covers for the bedding. We then spent $250 on a dog trained to check our house after our daughter visited to be sure she didn’t bring any of the critters home with her. Add two weeks of lost wages (for me) and two weeks of lost schooling for my daughter while we dealt with this.
The cost was just part of it. We were “uninvited” to our friend’s Thanksgiving meal because she is phobic about bedbugs. The emotional, physical and psychological toll was unbelievable.
My advice to the daughter-in-law would be to meet Mom only in neutral territory and not let her into the house at all. — A
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.
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Published in The Messenger 10.12.11