DEAR ABBY: I need some advice. My daughter, her husband and three girls moved into my home when my husband was ill five years ago. They were a big help to me when my husband was terminally ill with cancer. My son-in-law was always there during the night when I needed him. We get along well. He takes care of repairs and I have a free mind. I have my part of the house; they have theirs. They also help with all of the expenses.
My problem is his family -- especially his mother. I never had a mother-in-law. My husband's mother died before I knew him. Every time my son-in-law's mother comes here, she has to criticize something or complain about something. I'm ready to scream. This is my home, and I'm capable of making my own decisions. I may be 80 years old, but I still do volunteer work and keep up on all the local and world news. Reading is my hobby.
I try to deal with the criticism by being thankful for what I have. I have my health, my own home, and I'm still able to handle important things.
Every time I see her coming into the yard I feel like screaming. Other members of the family feel the same way. Abby, can you help me? His family takes over every weekend. I have a beautiful deck, but I don't use it when they're here. -- TRAPPED AT HOME
DEAR TRAPPED: There's no reason why you should have to feel trapped in your own home. You are all adults. It's time for a frank talk with your daughter, your son-in-law and his mother about how her criticism and complaints make you feel. From your description, she has been thoughtless and tactless.
You should be able to enjoy quiet time at home on some weekends if you wish. However, unless you speak up, no one will know how you feel. Please don't be shy or wait to clear the air. If you're "ready to scream," I'd say you're long overdue.
DEAR ABBY: My marriage was in need of repair. My husband and I had been fighting a lot. He told me that if I didn't like it, I could pack my things and go. I cried myself to sleep for nights on end.
One night I couldn't sleep because I was so upset with him. All I could think about were all the things that bugged me about him. I knew that if I didn't banish these negative thoughts from my mind, it would be a long time before I fell asleep. I decided to think, instead, of all the things that I loved about him. I wrote them down on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and placed it in his briefcase.
The next morning, he called me from work to tell me how much he loved me. When he came home that evening, he put my "list" in a frame and hung it on the wall. We hardly ever fight anymore. I get love notes weekly and kisses daily.
I thought some of your readers might like to try this recipe for renewed love. It was so simple -- and well worth the effort. -- HAPPY AGAIN IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR HAPPY AGAIN: What a terrific idea for warming up a glacial marriage. Your list of the things you loved about your husband obviously meant a great deal to him. When we focus only on what a person is doing wrong, we tend to undervalue what he or she is doing right.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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