Dear Annie: My husband and I have been happily married for 20 years. After the kids were grown, we decided to downsize.
We put our home on the market and moved to a different state.
My husband’s mother did not want us to move. She started interfering with the real estate office that was showing our house. She was given written warnings to stay away from the property. She then stripped all our perennials and trellises and took the picnic table and hoses — anything she could get off the property. She left a huge mess, and I had to pay someone to clean it up.
She wouldn’t stop, so I finally called law enforcement. Now members of the family have labelled me “psycho” because I filed a complaint, but the local police haven’t done anything. Mom continues to arrive at showings and claims she is the caretaker. What can I do to stop this woman without breeding more ill will? — Fed-Up Psycho
Dear Fed Up: Your mother-in-law’s behaviour is outrageous. Where is your husband in all this? He should quite firmly inform his mother that her punitive and destructive actions must stop immediately or she risks estrangement from his family. It is obvious that she is so frightened and upset by your departure that she believes her only recourse is sabotage. You both need to reassure her that living elsewhere will not keep you from calling, writing and visiting often. If she is incapable of adjusting, however, suggest she get professional help. It sounds like she could use it.
Dear Annie: I am a 15-year-old freshman. My best friend, “Ella,” recently told me she is constantly depressed. She said she’s tired of living behind a mask and wants people to understand.
Ella told me she’s thought about cutting herself. She is usually a bright and cheery person, so this came as a shock. I can’t help thinking maybe I never knew the real girl. She absolutely refuses to talk to her parents because she dislikes them. To me they seem like great parents, but I don’t live in her house.
What should I do? I don’t want to let Ella down in her time of need — Trying To Understand
Dear Trying: If Ella won’t talk about this with her parents, encourage her to talk to the school counselor, a favourite teacher or other trusted adult. Suggest she get some exercise. It boosts endorphin levels and can make her feel better.
You are a good friend to care about Ella’s mental health. Both of you can get more information through the teens site at kidshealth.org. You also should discuss this with your own parents so they can help you work on it.
Dear Annie: I need to comment on the letter from “Disheartened in Louisiana,” the widow who says all the men she meets want sex, not a relationship. She is either approaching men with the wrong signals or the wrong attitude.
I’ve searched for a companion for 30 years and have been quite discouraged that the women I meet invariably believe the outrageous falsehood “Disheartened” mentions — that all men are sexual creeps out for one thing. We are not. We are human beings and do not deserve to be collectively punished this way.
I have a strong suspicion “Disheartened” finds what she expects to find. And yet, if men did not show any interest in sex, we’d be labeled gay and rejected.
If she operates by testing men and holding our behaviour up to an impossible light, of course we will not wish to have a long-term relationship with her. There is no trust, loyalty or openheartedness in such a woman. — Much Maligned in Michigan
Dear Michigan: You’ve made some good points, but you are just as guilty of stereotyping women. After 30 years of looking, you should get some honest opinions from your friends and relatives about your approach and see if you can learn something.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.