DEAR ABBY: "Fearful in California," the mother of a newlywed young woman, wrote that her son-in-law, "Doug," was a nice guy, but verbally abusive when he drank. She said the next day Doug would conveniently "forget" what he had said or how badly he had behaved.
The daughter was frightened by her new husband's threats when he was drunk and feared that one day he'd carry them out. "Fearful" asked if you thought she should talk to her son-in-law and suggest he get help.
You advised her to stay out of it and that the daughter had to be the one to draw the line. You also said the daughter should join Al-Anon.
Abby, domestic abuse is not merely caused by alcohol. It's an issue of control. Domestic abuse thrives in solitude. That son-in-law needs to be made aware that his in-laws are watching. If this situation is fueled by alcohol, the son-in-law should seek help. If he doesn't, that mother needs to remove her daughter. Please let these people know they're right to be fearful. -- DR. MOURAINE R. BAKER, FOUNTAIN HILLS, ARIZ.
DEAR DR. BAKER: Although verbal abuse does tend to escalate over time, I saw no reason for the parents to step in now. Drunks (and abusers) tend to blame others for their own problems. That's why I advised the mother to send her daughter to Al-Anon, where she would learn that no matter what the husband accused her of during his drunken rages, she was not responsible for his behavior. It's an important lesson. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My mom went through the same thing with my dad. Dad refused to believe my mom when she told him what he had said while he was drunk, so she videotaped him one night. She made him watch the tape the next day, and he was mortified at his behavior.
As a result he substantially altered his drinking.
If the daughter can't obtain a video camera, a simple audio tape recorder will do just as well. Mom had the camera just sitting casually on a table.
You were right to advise "Fearful" to steer her daughter to Al-Anon. Al-Anon gave my mother the courage to videotape Dad. It made all the difference in their marriage, which lasted 53 years until her death two years ago. That daughter is in for an increasingly abusive marriage if she doesn't put a stop to what's going on now. -- HAPPY DAUGHTER, SAUGERTIES, N.Y.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Thank you for suggesting videotaping the drunken husband. Other readers wrote to say they had done it, and that it had shocked the drinkers into getting the help they so desperately needed. Denial is an integral part of alcoholism. Unless it can be overcome, the drunk won't admit there is a problem and seek help.
DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Fearful in California" was correct. If the mother confronts the son-in-law, it will either cause the daughter to defend him and cling to him even more, or cause the son-in-law to blame his wife for the mother's actions. I know because it happened to me.
Mom didn't consult me before she staged an "intervention," thinking it would help. My husband thought I had put her up to it, and he made my life even more hellish than it had been. Of course, I was determined to prove Mother wrong. So I stayed with him another hellish three years, until my nerves were shot and my bank account was empty. I might have left sooner if Mom hadn't meddled. -- HAPPY NOW IN COLUMBUS, OHIO
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