DEAR ABBY: I have a sister in-law, “Karen,” no one in my husband’s family likes. She’s rude and insulting and acts like she is better than everyone else. She feels she’s entitled to have family members watch her kids so she can do what she wants. (If you refuse, she drops the kids off at the door.) If anyone confronts her about her bad behavior, she claims she has anxiety and depression to make the person feel guilty.
Now, I’m not saying she doesn’t have these mental health issues, but I believe she uses them to manipulate others. My mother-in-law keeps saying we should “turn the other cheek,” but I no longer can, especially when it comes to her insults.
I know many family members will side with her out of sympathy, but I can no longer sit back and accept her verbally abusing me and others with no consequences. I know I need a plan so I won’t lose my temper and say something I’ll regret, but I’m not sure how to respond in a respectful way. Any ideas? — DOESN’T LIKE CONFLICT IN KENTUCKY
DEAR DOESN’T: Do nothing without first warning your in-laws that you have reached your limit. The next time your sister-in-law is rude and insulting, say calmly, “I don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. That’s it for me. I’m leaving.” Then do it. Your husband should back you up on this. And while you’re at it, have him and his family determine whether Karen’s kids are at risk, and act accordingly. Dumping her children on someone’s doorstep seems like child abandonment to me.
DEAR ABBY: I tell myself every year that I will not do this again but I do. My husband was married before, and had one daughter who now has two daughters of her own. She has always had the idea she was somehow deprived. I assure you, she was not. Her maternal grandparents thought she hung the moon and showered her with everything. When her mother remarried, she insisted that my husband allow her new husband to adopt her.
Contact with my husband was reestablished when she became of age. I do my best to acknowledge holidays, birthdays, etc., for all of them. The problem for me is there is never any reciprocation, and I’m tired of it.
We have a cordial relationship and see them frequently. It’s as though she thinks we owe her something. I am the one who does everything; my husband couldn’t care less. How can I end the cycle? To add to it, my own nephew is the same way. Nary a word of acknowledgement unless he is forced to. I guess my own feelings are the problem. I want to maintain cordial relationships, but I feel like it’s a one-way street. — AT ODDS IN NEW YORK
DEAR AT ODDS: Your stepdaughter and your nephew are adults. I suggest you have a mature conversation with both of them and tell them how you feel — that you want to maintain a cordial relationship but it seems like a one-way street. Then turn the other cheek one more time and, if they don’t respond, end the cycle. See them often and be cordial. Period.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.