DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law, "Ruth," who is 80, my husband, "Clarence" (50ish), and I (40ish) all live in the same house. Ruth's husband died before Clarence and I were married. She sold her home and Clarence sold his so they could buy a house together.
My mother-in-law is a wonderful lady. However, she is a complainer. She becomes agitated over petty things. She also doesn't like for Clarence to criticize anything. (His style is more a commentary than criticism.) I don't think Ruth realizes how much complaining she does.
Even though we've repeatedly asked her not to, Ruth "sorts" through our mail and throws out important letters and catalogs she feels we don't need. (She has an obsession with frugality.)
Clarence is even more upset about her behavior than I am. He says if things don't change, he and I will be forced to move. What do you think we should do? -- FRACTURED FAMILY IN FLORIDA
DEAR FRACTURED: If this is relatively new behavior, Ruth may need a physical and mental exam to determine if she's experiencing dementia. However, if this is the way she normally acts, you and your husband are going to have to have it out with her -- and Clarence is going to have to tell his mother that if things don't change, the two of you will be moving. In the meantime, arrange to have all of your mail delivered to a post office box and don't give Ruth a key.