Annie Lane: Sour over son’s mother-in-law

Published 5:45 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

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Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 42 years, and he has always had strong likes and dislikes. Four years ago, we moved closer to our son’s family. Until recently, I didn’t realize how much he dislikes our son’s mother-in-law (she lives nearby the family also).

This past year, he has refused to attend holiday functions if MIL is there. Of course she will be there, so that puts a strain on me. Nobody, including MIL, knows how he feels, only me. He usually makes up an excuse, and I go to whatever function by myself.

I can’t let my son know because it would not only hurt him but also hurt and offend our daughter-in-law, who we love. I have become extremely unhappy and bitter with my husband regarding his feelings. We have a grandson, and I want to see him grow up. Do I need to choose between him and family? 

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— Unhappy in Florida

Dear Unhappy: You absolutely do not need to choose. Of course, you should be a grandma. Be present in your son, daughter-in-law and grandson’s lives. It’s a blessing to live so close to family, so take advantage of the proximity and enjoy it.

As for your husband, remind him we don’t always get to choose our family, especially in-laws, but what’s most important — what he seems to be losing sight of — is your son and daughter-in-law’s happiness. With every event he decides to forgo, he drives a deeper and deeper wedge in his relationship with them and your grandson. Right now, the biggest loss in this situation is his.

Encourage him to start attending family functions again. I reckon being part of potlucks and birthdays, holidays and milestones will be worth him having to put up with MIL for a few hours at a time here and there. And if not, don’t let his bad attitude impact your decision to be in the forefront of these special moments.

• • •

Dear Annie: I read your answer to “Unsettled by Sexting,” who is receiving inappropriate sexual messages from a longtime friend, “Kurt,” who has been diagnosed with dementia. Most of the time, your advice is great, but I have to tell you that your answer here was way off.

First, why did Unsettled’s sister give Kurt her phone number and email address to begin with? With their history and the fact that they are treating his dementia with experimental drugs, this was not a good thing to do.

You suggested she continue to let what he says roll off her back. Obviously, she is not happy with the situation or able to do this. I believe she needs to go to the next step. Yes, he has dementia, but even so, he can be appropriately told to stop. (My mom had dementia, and I lived with her while caring for her. My family had to tell her a few times to get off of my back.)

Whoever is his main caregiver (nursing facility, family, paid caregivers, etc.) needs to be made aware of the situation. It would be good for Unsettled to have clear ideas of what she wants and/or needs. Talk to them and make it clear!

I would suggest giving the situation some time to resolve. In the end, it may require blocking Kurt. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior.

Good luck, Unsettled; it’s a difficult situation to be in! 

— Helping Unsettled 

Become Settled

Dear Helping Unsettled: Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It’s an excellent point that Kurt’s likely under some sort of supervision, if not by his wife then by other caretakers. This is the exact right step for Unsettled to take next, asking for their help in intervening with his inappropriate behavior.

I agree it will also probably take time for things to change, if Unsettled is willing to give it that. Many readers suggested simply blocking him altogether, though I can understand how this might be hard for Unsettled to do to a once better and closer family friend.

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