04/12/2004DEAR ABBY: I am 24 years old and have been married for seven years. We have one child.
My father-in-law has lived with us for the past three years. I am tired of this situation. I cannot have anyone over later than 10 p.m. or he goes crazy. Lights and TV have to be off by then, too. He lies on the couch all day. He doesn't clean up after himself. On top of that, he walks into our bedroom without knocking, so you can imagine what our sex life is like.
He is not over the hill or ailing. He is 57, and his only health problem is diabetes. We can't go anywhere without him; he even tags along with us when we visit his ex and her husband.
How do I tell him that we need time to ourselves without hurting his feelings? -- HAD IT IN TEXAS
DEAR HAD IT: You should be nominated for sainthood for tolerating the situation this long. Stop worrying about his feelings; he is certainly not worrying about yours. Set new house rules. Kindly but firmly take care of your own needs and don't apologize for it. Install a lock on your bedroom door. You and your husband are entitled to your privacy and your own life. If he doesn't like it, give him a deadline to be out, and then enforce it.
DEAR ABBY: I applaud "Sad and Disgusted in Virginia" for being proactive about protecting children from verbal and physical abuse. I was slapped often by my mother in grocery stores and parking lots. Plenty of people witnessed her tirades; no one would intervene. What they couldn't see was what went on at home behind closed doors. She hit me with her high-heeled shoes, pots and pans, even a violin, which shattered when it struck my head. No one ever questioned me about my bruises. I was too weak, scared and under my abuser's control to do anything about my situation.
I endured her beatings until I was 21. They stopped only because I moved to another state to attend graduate school.
I no longer have a relationship with my mother. I have often blamed myself for not speaking up about my own abuse. I remember hoping that someone like "Sad and Disgusted" would simply ask, "Are you OK?" That small act might have given me the courage I couldn't muster on my own. -- FREE AT LAST, CHICAGO
DEAR FREE: I am pleased you finally escaped your abuser. I hope you no longer blame yourself for not telling anyone what was going on. The reason many victims do not speak up about their mistreatment is they have been brainwashed into believing they somehow brought it on themselves. One phrase that echoes repeatedly in the mail I get from victims of abuse is, "He/she said I MADE him/her slap me, hit me, choke me, etc." Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Adults are responsible for their own behavior. We have free will. What we do or refrain from doing is our personal choice.
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.
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