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by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter-in-Law Is Barred From Family After Robbery

DEAR ABBY: Our son is married to a beautiful girl, "Debra." Several years ago, while we were away on vacation, she entered our home without our consent. (Our son has a key to our house.) She took several expensive, very personal and sentimental items, and we have no idea what she did with them because she denies doing it.

Abby, we have absolute proof it was her. Our son denied her involvement for a while until other suspicious things happened with some of their friends' possessions. We all agree now it was Debra. Her mother sided with her until Debra stole from her, too.

At the time of our robbery and our accusation of her guilt, Debra said she would never talk to us or enter our house again. In addition to what she did to us, in the past she has also done some unscrupulous and hurtful things involving our grandchildren and other children. Because of this, she is no longer invited to any family events, and our son agrees, although he still loves her, and they are still married.

We sincerely forgive Debra for what she did, but we decided that it does not mean we must include her in our lives again. Years have passed, and she's now trying to come back into the fold. Her presence would cause our grandchildren and their parents to stay away, which we definitely do not want. Debra and our son have no children.

She has never admitted her guilt or asked for forgiveness from us. Should we be open to allowing her back into our close-knit fold? -- VICTIMIZED IN FLORIDA

DEAR VICTIMIZED: Has your son offered an explanation for his wife's behavior? Could she have been on drugs or suffering from a mental or emotional problem at the time she acted out the way she did? Whether or not you should try to broker a peace in the family and "let her back into the fold" would depend upon what she did to the grandchildren and other children, whether it can be remediated with an apology and explanation to those she offended, and your family's capacity for forgiveness.