DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law is his own worst enemy. While my husband and I were dating, we visited his father regularly. Since our marriage, our visits have become less frequent. This is because my husband and I both have demanding jobs, and I am in school. We are BUSY trying to secure a stable life together.
My FIL has taken offense to this. He insists that the real reason we don't visit is because we are angry with him and hate him. We have tried explaining that it isn't so, but he refuses to believe us. He's convinced that he has somehow deeply offended us, and we are refusing to talk about it.
Unfortunately, he obsesses over this every time we DO visit and makes it awkward by guilt-tripping me and my husband, begging us to tell him what he did wrong. He also tries to prevent us from leaving when it's time to go by distracting us with conversation, refusing to see us out the door, and sometimes physically sitting in front of the car so we can't drive off. Neither my husband nor I look forward to visits anymore because they have become such a chore.
My FIL has issues with mental illness (which contribute to his behavior), but he refuses to get help. Worse, he has an elementary school-age child who believes everything he says. The child is convinced we hate and have abandoned them because of hearing my FIL talk. I am frustrated and sad for the child, but my words to my FIL fall on deaf ears. Do you have any advice? -- DAUGHTER-IN-LAW IN THE SOUTH
DEAR D.I.L.: Frankly, I am surprised your FIL is not focusing his entire attention on the child who is living at home rather than obsessing about his adult son and you. The man appears to be not only disturbed but also irrational.
Because your husband has dealt with his father his entire life, take your cues from him. If your father-in-law is currently married (I assume he must be because he has a young child living with him), talking to his wife might help. She may be able to help counteract the damage that is being created with the child.