DEAR ABBY: My problem is my daughter-in-law, "Marla," and the verbal abuse she heaps on my son, "Jack." She belittles him in front of me and the children on a daily basis. All my life I listened to my own mother do the same thing to my dad, and it's something I cannot tolerate.
When I've asked my daughter-in-law not to talk to Jack like that, Marla directs her anger at me. So all I can do is what I did with my mother -- get up and leave the room. What I want to say is, "Stop it! He's a good man who's been there for you from day one and doesn't deserve to be trashed!" But I'm afraid it would cause more trouble. I bought Marla a book on anger management, but she threw it away. Last week, I wrote her a letter giving her "what for." (I never mailed it.)
Abby, I'm at my wit's end with this woman and I'm not sure what is the most productive way to move forward. If you print this, I know she'll read it. No name or town, please. Sign me ... TRYING NOT TO BE AN INTERFERING M-I-L
DEAR TRYING: As much as you might wish to intervene, your daughter-in-law's verbal abuse will not stop until your son finds the strength to end it. He needs counseling to boost his self-esteem to the point that he can stand up for himself. Encourage him to do it soon because verbal abuse damages everyone who's exposed to it -- including the children who grow up thinking it is normal behavior.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 24-year-old single woman living with three cats. I have many friends and have dated on and off since my teens, but I am always happier when I'm unattached. I do not want children, and I don't intend to marry. I am content with my life, while many of my friends and co-workers insist that I'll never be "complete" without a man.
These people tell me that one day I'll realize what I'm missing -- but it might be too late to start a family. Abby, I have come to the conclusion that the desire for marriage and a family would require a major personality transplant for me.
I can't seem to convince my friends that I'm happy "as is." I get so tired of defending my lifestyle that I usually end up telling them they're right just so they'll stop bugging me. What should I say the next time? -- SINGLE AND HAPPY ABOUT IT
DEAR SINGLE AND HAPPY: Marriage and family may be the norm, but it isn't a guarantee of happiness for everyone -- as anyone can tell by reading this column.
When your friends push the subject, don't allow them to make you defensive. Just smile and change the subject.
DEAR ABBY: How do people know if their therapist is really helping them or just taking their money? Mine does not talk much or give any advice. What kind of progress should I expect in recovering from depression and anxiety attacks, and how do you evaluate yourself and the doctor to determine if your healing is just a slow process or if it's time to find a better-suited professional? -- THANKS FROM OHIO
DEAR OHIO: Discuss your concerns with your therapist. Do not feel guilty for questioning your progress. You have the right to do so. Therapy can sometimes be painful, but you must be completely honest, or it won't work. That said, sometimes it takes a little shopping to find a good fit, so don't be embarrassed about wanting a second opinion.
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