Dear Annie: I married at the age of 18. Shortly before my wedding, both of my parents died, leaving me with no other relatives. I looked forward to sharing life with my husband’s large, close-knit family.
But the day after the ceremony, my new mother-in-law began a crusade to divorce me. She went to each family member with horrible lies about me, and they believed her. I never got the chance to know them.
The worst lie was telling my husband that I was unfaithful. The whole family condemned me without a shred of evidence. Fortunately, my husband knew better.
My mother-in-law banned me from all family functions and forbade everyone from having contact with me. She insisted that we move far away to a rural area, isolated from everyone.
Before every holiday and family event for the past 25 years, I have cried watching my husband drive off for a day of fun and memories with his family, leaving me all alone. He says that he cannot disobey his mother, especially now that she is terminally ill.
After she dies, I am hoping that things will change and that I finally will be allowed to join the clan, but I’m unsure how to do this. My husband feels things should continue as they are. He seems to relish the role of martyr at the hands of a horrible wife. It is difficult to discuss this with him, as he has an uncontrollable temper and sometimes resorts to physical violence.
Should I simply accept that I never will be able to call anyone family? Sadly, divorce is out of the question for many reasons. — Alone in Minnesota
Dear Alone: Your husband is a coward, as well as an abuser. After 25 years, we wouldn’t count on his family being more accepting, particularly if your husband discourages it. Instead, please consider “family” those people who care about you. If you have children, they, their spouses and their in-laws are your family.
If you don’t have children, your friends can become the family you need. Since divorce is not an option, we recommend counseling on your own to help you cope better with the hand you’ve been dealt.