Dear Crabby, How Do I Deal with a Troubled Relative?

Dear Crabby,

For over 20 years my mother-in-law has been neglecting her son (my husband) and grandchildren in favor of her other son who has multiple addiction problems. It seems like he gets all the attention, while we get ignored, but are expected to drop everything and help out—no questions asked. Needless to say this really irks me. Should I stay silent or do you think I should say something to her for the sake of my family? I know this question is a little heavier than what you usually get, but I would appreciate your honest, no-nonsense approach to the problem.

Thanks, Shannon C.

Dear Shannon C.,

What a loser—kick him to the curb! I’m kidding… mostly. I know it sounds a bit harsh, but in other countries people a lot worse off than him are fending for themselves and forced to make a living at an early age. Heck, in some countries you ask for a handout and they’ll literally take your hand as payment! But I get what you’re saying. Families are such a strange dynamic and because you married into the family, well, it puts you square between a rock and a hard place.

DearCrabbyA good buddy of mine faced a similar dilemma. His uncle didn’t have two nickels to rub together most of the time and he always seemed to be in trouble with the ladies or the law. My buddy’s momma was a sweet lady and while she was used to her brother’s wonton ways and the excuses people made for him, it drove her husband batty that the uncle wasn’t held accountable for his actions and how everyone would bail him out of trouble time-and-time again. One day when the uncle came around begging for some sort of help, my friend’s dad had reached his breaking point and in no uncertain terms told the uncle to leave his family alone and try earning a decent living like everyone else! As you can imagine family gatherings were a bit strained from that point on, but eventually I think it all got straightened out. But like you said, you married into the family, so I don’t know if you could get away with being so direct like my buddy’s dad was. So, here’s my advice: have your husband talk to his mom about the situation. The key to success is making sure he thinks it was his idea in the first place; like that lady says in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ‘The man may be the head of the house, but a woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.’ So figure out a way to start planting seeds in his mind about all the ways your kids are getting shafted until he’s just as mad about it as you and then turn him loose in the direction of his mother. In the meantime, just focus on the wonderful family you have. They are the ones who need your love and attention the most.

Good luck and hope this helps.

Dear Crabby

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at [email protected]dia.com.

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