OPINION: Dear Abby

Widow navigates change in relations with former in-laws

DEAR ABBY: My husband passed away four years ago. I started dating my current beau two years ago. We are great friends. We are supportive of each other and enjoy our new life together.

I have drifted apart from my late husband's side of the family. We're still friendly but don't have as frequent contact as we used to because we all live great distances apart. I care a lot for my former sister-in-law, but my brother-in-law was rude and distant to my beau when they visited me. It rubbed me the wrong way. I never liked him anyway, and neither did my husband. The only reason we spent time with them is because of his wife.

Now that I'm moving forward with my new life, I no longer want them staying with me on visits and vice versa. I plan to continue phone contact with my sister-in-law and other family members from time to time. Am I handling this properly? I feel guilty sometimes, but I've never experienced anything like this before because my husband and I were together for 32 years.

-- New Territory in Arizona

DEAR NEW TERRITORY: In light of the fact that your former brother-in-law can't accept that you have a new man in your life, your solution to the problem seems appropriate. Because the former brother-in-law clearly doesn't care for your gentleman friend, you shouldn't have them as houseguests.

If you are asked why the invitations are no longer forthcoming, tell your former sister-in-law you love her and don't want to lose contact with her, but in the future, you will no longer be entertaining the way you did before your late husband's death.

DEAR ABBY: My sister "Maddy" and I were best friends. She was a great sister to all of us growing up. She was a successful career woman and helped many in our family.

She met a British guy online, got married and moved to the U.K. When they visited, we noticed Maddy had become a different person. She had lost her decisive personality and had become a docile, "can't go anywhere without my husband" individual. She couldn't even spend her own pension unless her husband approved it.

When we tried to talk to Maddy about it, she became defensive. I saw abuse but couldn't do anything. This has created a rift between us. I am sad because I have lost my sister and best friend. They have now retired and returned to the U.S., and my siblings barely tolerate her husband when he's around. Any advice?

-- Different in the South

DEAR DIFFERENT: Just this: One of the first things an abuser does is try to isolate his (or her) partner. Maddy's husband may have succeeded in not only isolating her but also dominating her.

If you are right about her having been abused, every sibling she will listen to should impress upon her how much they love her and that they will always be there for her. If you are still in contact with her, do the same. And keep the National Domestic Violence Hotline contact information -- thehotline.org; (800) 799-7233 -- close at hand in case you need it.

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.

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