Mother-in-law an embarrassment

My husband and I have been married 14 years and have four children. My mother-in-law always pitted his two sisters against each other to try to make them jealous and garner more attention for herself.

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married 14 years and have four children.

My mother-in-law always pitted his two sisters against each other to try to make them jealous and garner more attention for herself.

My husband wasn’t part of that, but there was always tension.

Our son was born with multiple disabilities and passed away last year at the age of 10.

My husband’s parents were not caring, loving or supportive. His mother refused to ride in the family car at the funeral because we didn’t also have space for her daughters. She said they needed her.

She has been so cold over the years and narcissistic as a parent that it has been heartbreaking.

My father-in-law just stands by. Due to her actions at our son’s funeral, my husband decided to cut off all contact. I wrote her a letter regarding our feelings and how hurt we were. We said they could have a relationship with our other children, but they have chosen not to.

They are, however, quite close to their daughters’ children.

Our adopted daughter is now four and has never met her paternal grandparents. My mother, the only grandparent she knew, passed away eight months ago.

When my daughter is older, how do I tell her about my husband’s parents? I grew up without an involved father and felt abandoned and unloved. I don’t want her to feel the same way. — Hurt and Ashamed in Indiana

Dear Indiana: Many children grow up perfectly fine without grandparents, and some, like yours, might even be better off.

If your daughter asks, tell her you aren’t in touch with Daddy’s parents. When she is older, she may want more detail, and you can say that some grandparents aren’t able to be as close as you might like and it’s simply the way they are.

If you don’t turn it into a tragedy, neither will she. Meanwhile, we hope you will find some grandparent substitutes for your children — perhaps a great-aunt or uncle, a neighbor or a friend’s parents.

Dear Annie: I recently retired after 32 years and now realize how different my husband is from me. He seems controlling and obnoxious, and nothing I do is ever good enough. We have started bickering about petty things. He goes around cussing at me and makes remarks like, “Nobody can be as stupid as you and still be alive.”

I am sick and tired of walking on eggshells, and he refuses to have a conversation with me. I feel alienated and lonely and am contemplating leaving.

He does all the work around the house, pays all the bills and hates his job.

I have sufficient income, but won’t have any insurance to take care of my medical problems. What should I do? — Tired and Lonely

Dear Tired: Retirement can bring out the problems in a marriage that a full-time job often obscures. Your husband sounds miserable, and he’s taking it out on you.

Since retiring, you have nowhere to escape. It might help to get involved in organizations that keep you active and busy, especially in the evening. Counselling can also help you get a handle on the situation and work on your decisions.

Dear Annie: This is for “Grateful but Worried Dad,” the divorced father whose young daughter becomes upset upon his departure.

As a stepmother, I saw this situation occur many times with my husband. A simple idea occurred to me: Ask Mom to pick up the child, rather than having Dad drop the child off after visits.

This puts the child’s focus on greeting the arriving parent, rather than a protracted farewell with the departing one.

If the child’s feelings are truly at heart, it would seem to me that “pick ups” by the “receiving” parent would be more standard. — Reflective Stepmom

Dear Stepmom: That’s a sensible and caring solution when possible, although there often are times when picking up a child can be too inconvenient or complicated. But we hope divorced parents will keep this in mind.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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