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by Abigail Van Buren

Fiance's Abusive Mother Terrifies His Bride to Be

DEAR ABBY: I desperately need your advice about my soon-to-be mother-in-law. (I'll call her Kay.) She was a horrible mother to my fiance, "Frank." He and his brother grew up with severe physical and emotional abuse. I believe Kay must have a mental disorder that causes her to do these things. However, in recent years her behavior has improved. The verbal abuse isn't constant like it was when Frank and his brother were living with her, but its tone is as bad as ever. After Kay cools off, she acts as if nothing ever happened.

Four months ago, Frank got into a fight with his mother because we were five minutes late for a baby shower for "Bobby," our newborn son. The next day Kay called and proceeded to tell Frank how worthless he is, and that he'll be a loser all his life. Then she told him I was a thankless, fat slob.

The last we heard from Kay was a message she left on our answering machine at 3:30 a.m., saying she had ripped up Bobby's pictures and never wanted to see any of us again. Abby, I was horrified. Frank assured me that she would no longer be a part of our lives after having hurt us so badly. He said he was through tolerating his mother's abuse.

Since then, Kay has asked Frank's sister "Arlene" to ask us to let her baby-sit and then Arlene could take Bobby to Kay's house. Kay has also done many other sneaky things.

Abby, I have no room in my life for such a bitter, disagreeable woman who will only hurt our family if I let her back into our lives.

Our wedding is scheduled for November, and Frank thinks we should send his mother an invitation because it's the polite thing to do. I understand his attachment to his mother, but I'm terrified of her and what she may do. I don't want her in our lives, and I'm afraid I'll eventually lose Frank because of my feelings about his mother.

Should I send Kay an invitation to our wedding just to be polite, and hope she doesn't show? Or should I refuse to send one and hope Frank understands? Please hurry your advice, Abby. The wedding is three months away and I'm getting ulcers. -- HURT BRIDE-TO-BE

DEAR HURT: Since Frank wants his mother to attend the wedding, she should be invited, and you should make an effort to mend fences. After all, this is Frank's wedding, too.

Now, I'm going to offer you a little more advice than you asked for. You'll save yourself untold grief if you tackle the issue of Kay's place in your lives now. You didn't mention whether Frank received counseling to deal with the abuse he received while growing up. If he didn't, he should.

You are marrying into a dysfunctional family, and I don't envy you the trials you'll be facing. Kay has shown herself to be not only abusive, but devious. Since she has abused her own sons, what's to prevent her from abusing yours? Even if Bobby were not the target of her abuse, for him to witness his grandmother treating you or his father that way would be traumatic. Be prepared.

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