DEAR ABBY: I have never been overly fond of my brother- in-law, “Ivan.” He’s an obnoxious, overbearing bully, and his wife, “Anita,” is envious and deceitful. My husband and I have been married 24 years, and I have tolerated these two because my husband and Ivan were in business together. By the way, my husband is 10 years older than Ivan and has much more business experience.

In their personal lives, Ivan and Anita have gone out of their way to upstage us. We bought a car; they bought a more expensive one. We redecorated our kitchen; they remodeled their whole house. We sold our home and bought a bigger one; they sold theirs and bought a house larger than ours. It became a family joke.

Ivan refused to consult my husband on business matters and purchased so much inventory, we nearly had to file for bankruptcy. Finally, after 13 years, we had enough. We sold our share of the business and have never been happier, nor more successful.

Abby, after putting up with their shenanigans for so many years, I literally hate Ivan and Anita. I know it sounds terrible, but I don’t speak to them, and I refuse to be in their presence. Although my husband speaks to them, he doesn’t really care for their company either.

The dilemma: I realize it’s not fair to the rest of the family that I won’t attend family functions if Ivan and Anita are there, but should I make myself miserable for the sake of my husband’s family? – FREE AT LAST IN FAIRBANKS

DEAR FREE AT LAST: From your description of Ivan and Anita, they are more to be pitied than hated. Their self- esteem issues are so severe they destroyed a successful family business. You are free now and more successful than ever, so why are you hanging onto your anger this way?

To make your family “choose” which of you to invite to family gatherings is unfair. For the sake of your husband’s family, bite the bullet and attend, but concentrate on other family members and avoid Ivan and Anita whenever possible.

DEAR ABBY: Our father died three years ago. He was married to “Mildred,” his second wife, for more than 10 years. We weren’t close to her. However, we do write occasionally and see her once or twice a year. He left everything to her in his will, which we accept.

Never in all the time since our father died has Mildred offered to give us anything of Dad’s. Just something small and personal would be greatly appreciated and treasured. We’re not talking about anything of monetary value. Also, there are numerous items such as old family photographs, a few things of my grandmother’s, etc. We can’t figure out why she would want to keep them, and we feel they should be kept in our family.

We thought that in time, she’d give us these items, so we haven’t asked her about them. Perhaps if she sees this letter she will realize that this means a lot to us. What do you think we should do, Abby? Or should we just ask her? – HIS CHILDREN

DEAR CHILDREN: Mildred isn’t a mind reader. By all means, ask her. Granted, offering you something that belonged to your father would have been the sensitive thing to do, but she may have been preoccupied by her own grief, or perhaps she didn’t think there was anything you wanted. Don’t count on her seeing your letter in my column – speak up.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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