DEAR ABBY: I know you have heard in-law horror stories for decades, but I believe mine takes the cake. My in-laws actually threw a second wedding reception for our guests because they didn't feel ours had enough food. It was a catered affair in their home immediately following ours.
When I had children, they told me they knew their daughter's children were their "real" grandchildren, but they could never be too sure mine were! They save their cruelest words for me and our children for when my husband is not around.
They call my husband "henpecked" because ours is an equal partnership, and he shares in the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning and shopping.
My mother-in-law complained last year that my husband is "too close" to his children. She says if my husband has time to coach our son's soccer team, he should have time to fix their storm windows.
My in-laws have repeatedly returned gifts to me saying, "I never cared for that scent of perfume" or "This shirt makes me look long-waisted."
They have also overindulged my husband's sister's children to such a degree that neighbors and other family members have commented on it over the years. My husband has truly supported me throughout these in-law tribulations. We have a fantastic marriage.
My problem is, after 18 years of being on the receiving end of these absurd in-law antics, my elderly in-laws expect me to assist them. They are now in their 80s and infirm. My husband feels obligated to assist his parents, however I don't think I can.
Am I a small person, or is there a limit to what I or anyone should give to people who have been mean and miserable for years on end? -- RESENTFUL IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR RESENTFUL: You are not a small person -- your feelings are more than justified. Your in-laws are so self-centered they do not consider how their words and actions affect other people. However, resentment can do more damage to the person who harbors it than it does to the target.
Should you help these people? Under no circumstances should you be expected to tolerate any more abuse. However, since your husband feels obligated to help his parents, and he has "truly supported you" throughout the years, I think you'd feel better if you returned the favor and supported his efforts. He's sure to need the help. If "helping" conflicts with something that is important to you, call an attendant care agency and let someone else help for a day or two. To do otherwise will only add to your resentment.