DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a wonderful man for 17 years and we have two children. My life should be perfect, and it is — until it’s time to visit my in-laws.
We don’t see them more than a few times a year, but I’ve taken to pleading work as an excuse not to see them on holidays or special occasions if I can avoid it. I have even spent Christmas at home alone because I can’t stand how verbally abusive my in-laws are.
My mother-in-law admits to being mean and nasty. She says she doesn’t care because she “hates people.” They are now pressuring my husband to move nearer to them. The thought makes me sick.
My life could have been so different if these relatives were nice, normal people. I wanted us to be friends. I’m a kind person, but I have never been good enough for them.
I would never dream of saying some of the things they have said to me. They’re upper middle class and I’m “trash.” I never thought when I married my husband that his family would enjoy making me miserable.
The Easter holidays are coming and I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid one day the buildup of anger will make me explode. How can I make their verbal abuse stop? I’m sick of being the brunt of jokes and sarcastic comments. — “OUTLAW” IN ARIZONA
DEAR “OUTLAW”: If your husband is “wonderful,” why has he tolerated his parents’ treating you this way for 17 years? He should have insisted from the beginning of your marriage that you be treated with respect. I can’t believe the two of you would expose your children to this multiple times a year.
You can’t “make” your in-laws stop their verbal abuse, but your husband might be able to if he locates his spine and puts his foot down. There should be no more talk of moving close to these toxic people, nor should there be any more visits to them until they either change their attitudes or learn to watch their mouths. If your husband feels he must go, then he should go alone, and you should stop making excuses for your absence.
DEAR ABBY: My husband is an alcoholic who attends AA meetings. Last night he forgot to sign out of his email and I saw he has been corresponding with a woman he met at the meetings. In her message she confided her problems finding a man. His reply was that she has been picking the wrong men, that he cares and that they need to talk face-to-face.
I wish I had never seen the email. Because of it, I can’t eat or sleep, worrying about what might possibly be going on. I don’t want to confront him because he has a nasty temper, yet I feel I must do something. But what? — LOST IN NOWHERE, MONTANA
DEAR LOST: Instead of “confronting” your husband, simply ask him if he has become this woman’s AA sponsor. It might explain why she is confiding in him, and why he suggested they meet face-to-face to talk, which could be entirely innocent. Does he have a history of cheating on you?
If something is going on, it would be better for your emotional health to know what you are dealing with. And if your husband responds with verbal or physical abuse because of his “nasty temper,” you should insist on marriage counseling or get out of there for your own safety.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.