Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Long Marriage Becomes Abusive Over Time

DEAR ABBY: My husband's dad, "Adam," is very mellow and can talk to anyone. His mom, "Eve," is friendly, but a little more reserved.

Early in their marriage, Adam was a drinker, and my mother-in-law has never forgiven him for the way he treated her during that time. She has always treated him disrespectfully, but as they get older, it's becoming worse.

She has hit Adam when we had people over because he didn't do what she told him to do. I told her to stop, and my husband told her she embarrassed him, but Eve forgets or doesn't care and continues to do it. She talks down to him constantly. If that's how she acts when people are around, I hate to think what happens behind closed doors.

When she hits him, Adam sits there expressionless and doesn't react. He's not the man he once was, and he is adored by many people. What can we do to help my FIL and make her stop doing this in front of her grandkids and company? Eve claims to be a Christian, but isn't acting like one. -- FRUSTRATED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your father-in-law may have had a drinking problem years ago, but he has a different problem now. He is a victim of verbal and physical abuse. He may have tolerated it all these years out of guilt for what he put his wife through when he was drinking. He may also have become so beaten down that he can no longer protect himself.

He does need help. With your and his son's encouragement, he can receive it because there are programs available for male victims of domestic violence. Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE) is an organization that helps abused individuals of all ages, genders, races and sexual orientations. The website is

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Marriage & Divorce | Abuse | Addiction | Aging