Dear Abby: Mother struggles as daughter's marriage strains
DEAR ABBY: My daughter and son-in-law have been married for seven years and have two young daughters. We get along well and spend a lot of time together. Our daughter is an only child, and I have noticed over time that my son-in-law is very selfish and puts his needs before the family's. Because he works hard, he seems to feel it entitles him to do whatever he wants. My daughter works hard too, and she constantly puts the family's needs and his needs ahead of her own.
I know she's not happy about his spending habits. Recently, over her objections, he bought an $80,000 car. While they can afford it, I believe she resents the bulk of the family expenses falling on her while he gets what she calls his "boy toys." Their earnings are very disparate. My daughter, a doctor, makes three times his salary as a police officer. They have been in counseling, but it seems to have had minimal impact.
How can I support my daughter in dealing with this? I worry about her happiness. I have a good relationship with my son-in-law, but we don't discuss difficult issues. So, while I want to support their family, it will have to be through my daughter. Any suggestions for me? -- HELPFUL MOM IN MARYLAND
DEAR MOM: Resist the urge to involve yourself in this. Your daughter is educated, successful and intelligent enough to do something about it when she's had enough. Because counseling didn't help her and her husband communicate more effectively on the subject of his spending, she may eventually have to make some decisions about her and her children's futures. Let her know you love and support her, but do not stir the pot. Say little, if anything, on this subject and only if you are asked.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been invited to a surprise engagement party honoring a distant relative I'll call "Elizabeth." The invitation states, "Shhhh ... This is a surprise! Elizabeth doesn't know about the impending proposal."
Is this something new? What if she says no?! Does everyone go home or stay and endure an uncomfortable meal? Should we take a gift? Isn't this beyond awkward and over the top? What's next? -- BEHIND THE TIMES?
DEAR B.T.T.: I agree that marriage proposals should be private and intimate, rather than a Hollywood production. (If only because there's always a risk that the person being proposed to might feel trapped, embarrassed or refuse.) However, you and I should not assume we speak for everyone.
Over the last decade or so, marriage proposals, invitations to senior proms, etc. have taken on a life of their own. And, if it makes people happy -- and hurts no one -- who are we to judge? As to whether to bring a gift to this event, it might be more prudent to bring one to the bridal shower rather than the surprise engagement party.
Sibling still wrestles with lingering effects of abuse
DEAR ABBY: I had a horrible childhood with a mean mother who berated and took her issues out on me. I also had an older brother who enjoyed making fun of me and embarrassed me in front of others to get his kicks. He still never misses an opportunity to pull a "gotcha."
I was raised at a time when child abuse was considered making a kid tough. What it did to me was break me down emotionally. Does PTSD ever go away, or do I have to live with it to the end? -- JUST GETTING BY IN NEW YORK
DEAR JUST GETTING BY: I'm sorry for the abuse to which you were subjected. PTSD does not go away on its own, and you do not have to "live with it." Distance yourself as much as possible from your bully brother. You can find the help you need by asking your physician or insurance company to refer you to a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in patients with PTSD. You won't be the first person to do "couch time" after an abusive childhood. Trust me on that.
DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law has spent every Friday night with my husband and me for two years, ever since my mother-in-law passed away. My husband spends every Tuesday evening with him at his house. My sister-in-law is building a room onto her house for him to live in (he is selling his house). My husband and sister-in-law call him two or three times a day.
Abby, my father-in-law is healthy and still drives. He never pays for any food -- my husband and sister-in-law buy all his food. He's a wealthy man, but stingy. I think my husband and his sister are obsessed. What do you think? I'm so tired of this. I don't want him staying at my house. I need privacy! Help! -- OVER IT NOW IN TENNESSEE
DEAR OVER IT: Your husband and his sister appear to be devoted to their father. Either that, or they may anticipate a big payday once their wealthy parent expires. More than privacy, you may need a break. Arrange to spend some of those Friday nights with women friends, and perhaps his presence will be less onerous.
DEAR ABBY: We welcomed new neighbors and allowed them to use our garbage can until they got one, and gave them a bottle of wine and a housewarming card. We also offered to let them use our downstairs bathroom until the contractor finished theirs. No one else on the block did anything for them. Nothing.
They then invited a neighbor and his wife over for drinks and didn't invite us. My husband says I shouldn't be offended by this. I certainly would have had the neighbors who had welcomed me over first. What do you think? -- SNUBBED IN THE SOUTH
DEAR SNUBBED: I think you and your husband are more than neighborly. I also think you are blessed with common sense, something your new neighbors may lack. My advice is to let this unfortunate incident slide without holding a grudge. Take the high road and move on. Nothing positive will come of allowing this to fester. Whether the couple is worth knowing better will become apparent with time.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.