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ANNIE’S MAILBOX

Her hubby’s mother plays favorites

September 17, 2011

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Q. My husband and his brother, “Sam,’’ are both in their 50s. My mother-in-law thinks Sam is “the golden child.’’ He and his wife receive the best gifts, and we get whatever trash she can put her hands on. She gives my sister-in-law all the best jewelry, and I get cheap junk. She recently told me that for my birthday, she was sending a blouse that she bought for herself, wore a few times and now doesn’t care for.

I don’t know what to say to her when she does these things. My main concern is how it makes my husband feel.

When he tries to visit, she tells him not to bother, that she doesn’t need to see him. But when Sam visits, she runs out and gets her hair and nails done and stocks the house with all of his favorite things.

My husband deals with it by lowering his expectations, but I find it more difficult to handle. We will no longer spend holidays with his family, because our last Christmas was so painful.

I think she has a sick obsession with my brother-in-law, and of course, he doesn’t see the problem. My husband has told her he doesn’t appreciate how she treats us, but she doesn’t care. She has also made it clear that she’d like my husband to get back together with his ex-wife. (That will never happen.)

I don’t care if I never see my in-laws again, but I want my husband to feel loved by his mother. Is there anything I can say or do to make her understand how hurtful her behavior is?

SAD WIFE

A. Probably not. As much as it hurts, you need to let your husband handle this as he chooses. The best you can do is be supportive. Don’t harp on how unfair and unloving Mom is. That will only add to his pain. Instead, show him how much he is loved in his own home, and treat the rest with as light a touch as possible.

Q. My 40-year-old daughter and her two young children live with me. Her husband is in and out of prison, and she relies on me to help. I also have an 18-year-old daughter with a baby living under my roof, not to mention a third daughter who is visiting for a month with her five kids.

I’m fed up and want to be left alone. I plan to sell my home, move to a senior apartment and maybe travel. I don’t want them to follow me. I think that is the only way to get rid of them. I assure you, they will never leave on their own.

Am I obligated to provide child care and housing forever?

DEBBIE

A. Of course not. Let the kids know you are selling the house and moving into a much smaller place and they will have to find their own housing arrangements. We hope you enjoy your travels. It sounds like you deserve a break.

Q. I read the letter from “Up a Creek,’’ whose friend, “Bob,’’ struggles with alcoholism. “Creek’’ suspects unresolved mental health issues, and you acknowledged that this could be true.

We have an adult son who went through years of rehab, AA, arrests, counseling, you name it. It started when he was 18, and it got continuously worse until his mother and I finally got educated enough on bipolar disorders to help him get the treatment he should have received much earlier.

Please tell “Creek’’ to get in touch with the National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org or 800-950-6264.

N.

Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 West Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.