DEAR ABBY: My brother "Dan" cheated on his wife, "Darlene." His affair lasted five years before he dumped Darlene to pursue a relationship with the other woman. My problem is, every time family members invite Darlene and her children to be part of an event, we have to listen to her long, drawn-out monologue about Dan's affair with "that woman."
I don't approve of Dan's behavior, but I refuse to hate him because their marriage failed. It was on the downslide for a long time before the affair began. Darlene has spent the last four years making sure her kids never see my brother's new wife or meet their half-siblings. She talks openly in front of them about how "evil" their father and "that woman" are, then invites Dan on family trips, which I'd find confusing if I were in their shoes.
I don't want to cut my nieces and nephews out of my life, because they need stability. But I don't care at this point if I ever see Darlene again. Any suggestions? I'm at my wit's end. -- TIRED OF THE SOB STORY
DEAR TIRED: The reason the No. 1 songs on the charts keep changing is listeners finally grow bored and stop buying them. The same is true for the "he done me wrong" chorus your former sister-in-law keeps repeating. While I understand her pain and anger, it's a shame Darlene hasn't accepted that she needs to get on with her life. A step in that direction would be to quit wallowing in the past.
Because you can't control her, when she starts her next refrain, excuse yourself. Let her entertain the rest of the family while you spend quality time with your nieces and nephews, and you'll all have a better time.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married several years to an only child. Despite our objections, my mother-in-law, "Diana," continues to treat my husband, "Rob," as though he's helpless and me as his equally incapable sidekick.
I should have realized there was trouble when Diana and other in-laws came to visit us on our honeymoon -- unannounced and uninvited. When we go to a buffet restaurant, she prepares plates for him. She tells him what clothes to wear to events and even irons them for him. She includes our names on cards, gifts, flowers, etc., for which we've had no input or financial contribution. Anytime we mention going out of town, she attempts to invite her husband and herself to tag along.
Rob and I are responsible adults who work full time. We have never asked his parents for anything. I find her behavior insulting and intrusive. Even if I wanted to wait on my husband hand and foot, I'd have to beat my mother-in-law to it.
I have done everything I can think of to remedy this, from having Rob speak to her to being frank with her myself. Aside from saying hello when I answer the phone, I choose to have no relationship with her. Am I being overly sensitive, or is Diana overstepping her boundaries? -- MARRIED TO AN ONLY CHILD IN KENTUCKY
DEAR MARRIED TO AN ONLY CHILD: If your description of your mother-in-law is accurate, she's the living definition of a mother who can't let go. Because you and Rob have spoken frankly to her about this and her behavior persists, she strikes me as overbearing.
By now it should be clear that Diana isn't going to change. Your best recourse may be to put geographic distance between you if and when it's feasible.