DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married five years. My husband’s stepdad died two years ago. After the funeral we offered to have his mother come live with us until she got back on her feet.

Well, it has been two years, and she’s still here. She doesn’t help out with the expenses, although she is able to, and has made no plans to move. We have raised the subject, but she says that she’s in the midst of writing a book and wants to see if it will sell before she decides what to do. She’s constantly in the house and goes nowhere on her own. My husband and I are her only form of entertainment.

On top of that, we’re expecting our first child. I wanted my husband and I and our baby to bond as a family before anyone else was in the picture, but that’s not going to happen now. Am I selfish to want to be alone with my husband and baby?

How can we make her see that she has overstayed her welcome? Fear of being alone is what’s stopping her from leaving. But she can’t expect to live here indefinitely. This has put a strain on our marriage. My husband agrees with me, but we see no way out of this situation. We want his mom to be OK, so we don’t have the heart to kick her out. But isn’t it time for her to stand on her own?

Our marriage is being destroyed because of this, and we’re desperate for guidance. – HOPELESS DOWN SOUTH

If you and your husband want your lives back, the two of you are going to have to stage an “intervention” with his mother. Script it ahead of time if necessary. Although the conversation may not be pleasant, nothing will change unless you have it.

Your mother-in-law may need psychological and spiritual guidance to work her way through the period of mourning that she has postponed by moving in with you. If she’s ever to have a life of her own, she must move out and cultivate relationships instead of relying so heavily on you.

Begin by investigating retirement communities in your area, and set a firm deadline for her to move. You have been more than generous, so please do not feel guilty about it.

DEAR ABBY: I am 18 and a high school graduate. I decided to attend an online university and have come to realize that this was a huge mistake. Now I am under extreme pressure from my family to correct the mistake by either getting into a different school or getting a job.

The problem is, I do not wish to attend a university in the U.S.A. I would like to study abroad. Whenever I mention this to my family, they laugh in my face.

My family crushed every dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember, and I’m asking for advice on how to avoid it this time and find the strength within myself to go against what they want. – BROKEN DREAMER, SPRINGFIELD, TENN.

Your next step should be to visit your nearest public library and ask the librarian to help you research scholastic scholarships at universities that offer study programs abroad. Perhaps when your family sees how serious you are about it, they will then take you more seriously. Assuming that you have the grades to qualify, you may not need your family’s financial help to pursue your dream.

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.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable – and most frequently requested – poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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