DEAR ABBY: I coordinated and paid for a 70th birthday party for my terminally ill husband. Fourteen people were invited, and seven of them were related to my only sister, “Carla.”
During the dinner, her husband was rude to the waitress and at the end of the party was screaming and yelling at Carla over the valet parking ticket. As they left the restaurant, he shoved her. He then got in their car and left my sister and her stepdaughters (from a previous marriage) standing there. They had to order a rideshare to get home.
I texted her later to be sure she and the girls had arrived safely. She said yes and told me she would talk to me the next day. When I didn’t hear from her, I followed up. The next time we talked, she acted like nothing had happened! When I pursued the discussion and asked what prompted his strange behavior, she said, “I don’t know what to tell you.” I said, “You don’t know?” and she replied, “I didn’t say that. I said I don’t know what to tell YOU.”
After a lengthy discussion, I told her that unless we had some assurance that the incident wouldn’t be repeated, we didn’t want to see her husband again. She said it wouldn’t be a problem. I have invited her to numerous family events, and she comes solo, but now she is blaming me for “tearing the family apart.” What can I do now, if anything? — IN A MESS IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR IN A MESS: Your sister is apparently married to an abuser with a short fuse and has resigned herself to it. She has my sympathy, but she should not blame you for any of it. She could really use some help from a support group for abused partners, because things will not get better. If you prefer not to see her horror of a husband, stand your ground and do not allow yourself to be guilted or coerced into it. He owes all of you an apology.
DEAR ABBY: I am engaged to a wonderful, sweet, hardworking 30-year-old man. We get along well and make each other happy. The trouble is how he comes across to others. He is so eager to be friends that he opens up much too quickly, revealing and venting about things like his work problems. It makes people uncomfortable.
He has been called out on it several times by various people (some even straight-up called him “creepy”), and he will stop for a while. But he falls into the same pattern the next time he meets somebody new. This whole thing is made worse by his anxiety; when someone calls him out on this behavior, he experiences crippling panic attacks. They cause him to apologize profusely, which only exacerbates the problem.
He refuses to seek therapy or treatment for his anxiety. I am at a loss about how to help him, other than listen to his troubles and offer support when I can. What should I do? — CHALLENGED FIANCEE
DEAR FIANCEE: Your fiance may be a great guy, but unless you want to spend your life with a partner who refuses to get help for his emotional problems and doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes, it may be time to step back and reevaluate this relationship. Much as you would like to, you can’t fix what’s wrong with him. Only he can do that. If you marry him, the chances are you will wind up as socially isolated as he is. What a shame.
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.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)