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by Abigail Van Buren

Large, Loving Family Extends From Present Back Into Past

DEAR ABBY: I was offended by your response to "Nameless, Of Course," who was upset that her former brother-in-law's new wife had "corrected" her when she introduced them as "my brother-in-law and his wife, JoAnn," by injecting, "He WAS your brother-in-law."

You were way off base to label the new wife as a "petty, insecure woman." I think that label better applies to the former sister-in-law.

As the wife of a former widower, I know you were correct when you stated that marriage is more than the joining of two individuals; it is also the joining of families. But Abby, if joining families is a goal, why would you condone this obvious exclusion of the current wife? If "Wayne" is her "brother-in-law" and "JoAnn" is "his wife," apparently HE is still considered a part of the family, but SHE (the newcomer) is not! She felt she was treated as an intruder, hence her strong public corrections. No one likes to be on the outside looking in, particularly when her spouse is on the inside while she stands out in the cold.

I have watched some of my husband's former in-laws struggle with this. Those who seem to have the greatest difficulty are the ones who have not accepted the death of my husband's first wife. My husband reacts to this by seeing as little as possible of his former in-laws, who continue to live in the past and cannot accept his new life -- or me.

My mother-in-law handles these situations in the classiest, warmest way I've ever seen. At 79 years young, she has dealt with a lot of "comings and goings." In her eyes, everyone is an in-law. Her brother died at age 39, and his widow is now on her third husband. Mom always introduces them as "my sister-in-law and brother-in-law," and we refer to them as "aunt and uncle." Now that's a beautiful welcome into the family. Ours is a large extended family with many in-laws, and our family events are truly special because everyone feels included.

"Nameless" should take the hint, back off, and accept JoAnn as the newest member of the family. That way, she would gain a sister-in-law, and her "former" brother-in-law would have the family support he and his new wife need in order to succeed in their new life together. -- AM THERE, DOING THAT

DEAR AM THERE: You are very perceptive. Your letter illustrates the importance of being compassionate and accepting of new in-laws. The reward is having an extended, loving family. I appreciate your input.