Bedbugs bite into marriage

Dear Annie: My husband’s mother lives three hours away, not far from his sister and her family.

Dear Annie: My husband’s mother lives three hours away, not far from his sister and her family.

The problem is, my sister-in-law has had a bedbug infestation for more than a year. She has sprayed the mattresses and covered them with plastic, but won’t hire a professional. Six months ago, she got new mattresses and living room furniture, but her husband thinks there is still a problem in one bedroom.

My sister-in-law’s home is cluttered and not well-maintained. Over the years, they have had several flea infestations. Their daughter has a drug problem, and she and her kids move frequently between local area shelters and her mother’s home. She also sometimes stays with my mother-in-law. Our exterminator advised me to steer clear of my sister-in-law’s house and not even bring their Christmas gifts into our home. We have avoided visits for more than a year.

This is causing problems in my marriage. My husband thinks I am overreacting and believes it is unlikely we can get bedbugs if we visit or invite his mother to visit. He dismisses the facts about how easily bedbugs are transferred between homes, autos and clothing, and how difficult they are to get rid of.

Mom is losing patience and desperately wants to see us and our new grandchild. She claims there are no bedbugs in her home, but I don’t see how that is possible due to the frequent exposure. I miss my inlaws, but don’t want to risk our exposure or that of my son and his family. How do I resolve this? — Can’t Handle Bedbugs

Dear Bedbugs: We understand your reluctance to expose yourself to bedbugs, but there also is a price to pay for avoiding your in-laws. You need to explain your concerns to Mom, and then enlist your husband’s help in finding a solution. Perhaps you could stay in a hotel or with other family members or friends whose homes you trust and meet with Mom in a neutral setting. Or have Mom visit you, watching carefully for signs of infestation. Your grandson can then see Mom in brief spurts. She may, in fact, be bedbug-free, and frankly, as unpleasant as it could get, it’s worth the cost of an exterminator if it saves your marriage.

Dear Annie: My son and his wife have been married for 20 years. I thought we had a close relationship until my husband pointed out that our daughter-in-law never wishes us a “happy birthday.” I did notice that she never gets on the phone to say “happy Mother’s Day” or “happy Father’s Day,” but I just assumed she felt uncomfortable since we aren’t her parents.

However, during a recent birthday celebration for my husband, my son and both of his children entered the house and said, “Happy birthday!” Our daughter-in-law simply walked in and busied herself putting gifts on the table. Why? — Bewildered

<b.Dear Bewildered: It’s possible your daughter-in-law has unpleasant associations with such wishes and has developed superstitions that prevent her from saying the words. You won’t know unless you ask.

Mention this to your son and see whether he can shed any light on the subject. But if this is the only flaw in your relationship, please don’t make a fuss over it.

Dear Annie: “Midge” wrote that her group had given a scholarship to a young woman who never sent a thank-you letter.

Fifty years ago at Michigan State University, I worked three part-time jobs to support myself. Then, several wonderful things happened, one of which was a check awarded by the Faculty Wives. I never wrote a thank-you note. The reason? I was from a poor family and had never written such a note in my life. I had no idea it was the proper thing to do. — Blacksburg, Va.

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, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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