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by Abigail Van Buren

Happy Marriage Fails to Dispel Sister in Law's Hate for Wife

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a wonderful man for more than a year. (We've been together for seven years.) It's a second marriage for both of us, and together we're raising four beautiful children.

When I married this man, I knew full well his sister bitterly disapproved of me but hoped she would get over it with time. Now that we've been happily married for a year, she's worse than ever.

I don't know what I ever did to cause my sister-in-law to hate me. She was like a mother figure to my husband when he was young, as she is 25 years older. She disliked my husband's first wife, too, but wasn't nearly as cruel to her. In fact, now that they're divorced, she's friendly with her.

It's gotten back to me that my sister-in-law has told hurtful lies about me and my children to family members and the community. She has also insulted me to my face at family gatherings. Now I get anxious to the point of feeling ill before attending a family function.

My mother-in-law sees how much pain her daughter causes me and becomes upset, as do my husband and children. Everyone thinks she is jealous of me. That's no excuse, as far as I'm concerned.

I am a respected mother and wife and have given this woman no reason to hurt me. Please, Abby, could you advise me on the best way to handle her? I have carried this heartache for too long. -- SCORNED SISTER-IN-LAW IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR SCORNED: I'm mystified that you and your family continue to attend gatherings that make you physically ill. Whoever hosts these family get-togethers and allows this verbal abuse to happen is partly to blame by not letting her know her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If she refuses to cooperate, it would be a relief to all concerned if this sister-in-law were excluded from family gatherings until she agrees to be civil and act like a lady.