Marriage being worn down by meddling mother-in-law

Dear Annie: I have been married to “Barry” for 20 years. Even though we live several hours from his mother, she controls many of our family’s decisions.

Dear Annie: I have been married to “Barry” for 20 years. Even though we live several hours from his mother, she controls many of our family’s decisions.

My mother-in-law is our only living parent. I have tried many times to please her, without success. I often have the family over to our home and invite them to our summer cottage. I plan outings and shop for gifts. She doesn’t drive, so I take her to the grocery and wherever else she needs to go. But in her eyes, I cannot do anything right.

Barry jumps when she asks him to do anything. If she needs a light bulb changed, he immediately goes to fix it. She has always been his “boss” in terms of what he does, how he does it and when he does it. And she is his confidante when it comes to our marriage, which does not help.

For the past several years, Barry has been very uninterested in me. He’s angry all the time and blames me for everything that goes wrong in his life. I’ve been to counselling, but Barry (and his mother) feels this is nonsense and says there must be something wrong with me.

I have been an outsider in Barry’s family for my entire marriage and see no hope of changing it. Where do I go from here? Is divorce my only answer? I truly love my husband, but I don’t like our life with his family, and he is unwilling to make changes. — Sad in the North

Dear Sad: Your mother-in-law sounds difficult, but your real problem is Barry. If he would back you up, it would give you an opportunity to change the dynamics within the relationship. But his family doesn’t show you respect because Barry doesn’t demand it, and worse, he makes them believe they can treat you poorly. And while his family deserves his consideration, as well, it shouldn’t come at your expense.

Tell Barry that your marriage is in serious trouble, not only because of the way his family treats you, but because he is angry and uninterested. If he refuses to go for counselling, go back on your own and figure out what’s best for you.

Dear Annie: A year ago, I approached my aunt about something she did that hurt my family. I tried to do so with gentleness and respect. However, not only did she not apologize, but she also completely rationalized her behaviour.

Now she acts as if I did something wrong, and she is ignoring me. We used to be quite close and corresponded frequently. I still write to her, but get no response. She sends texts to everyone but me. She even writes my wife and kids, but it’s as if I no longer exist. How should I deal with this situation? — The Silent Treatment

Dear Silent: You caught your aunt behaving poorly. Instead of being mature about it, she became defensive. Now she is punishing you as a way to avoid taking responsibility for her actions. If you are willing to forgo the apology, you can simply tell her you miss her and the closeness you once had. It’s also possible that in time she will begin including you again, as long as you don’t mention the previous unpleasantness. We hope she will grow up soon.

Dear Annie: “Worried Papa” said his teenage daughter wants to get her navel pierced. I got mine pierced in my 20s because everyone else was doing it, so of course I thought it was cool, too.

In my 30s, I got pregnant and removed the ring. Now I have an ugly hole that was stretched during two pregnancies. Tattoos also stretch with aging and pregnancy, and some of them look like gross ink blobs as your skin loses its elasticity. — Should Have Thought Twice

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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