Dear Abby: Can I help my daughter cope with her spendthrift husband?

Mom can’t stand seeing the man put his money toward ‘boy toys’ — like an $80,000 car — instead of family expenses

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DEAR ABBY: My daughter and son-in-law have been married for seven years and have two young daughters. We get along well and spend a lot of time together. Our daughter is an only child, and I have noticed over time that my son-in-law is very selfish and puts his needs before the family’s. Because he works hard, he seems to feel it entitles him to do whatever he wants. My daughter works hard too, and she constantly puts the family’s needs and his needs ahead of her own.

I know she’s not happy about his spending habits. Recently, over her objections, he bought an $80,000 car. While they can afford it, I believe she resents the bulk of the family expenses falling on her while he gets what she calls his “boy toys.” Their earnings are very disparate. My daughter, a doctor, makes three times his salary as a police officer. They have been in counseling, but it seems to have had minimal impact.

How can I support my daughter in dealing with this? I worry about her happiness. I have a good relationship with my son-in-law, but we don’t discuss difficult issues. So, while I want to support their family, it will have to be through my daughter. Any suggestions for me? — HELPFUL MOM IN MARYLAND

DEAR MOM: Resist the urge to involve yourself in this. Your daughter is educated, successful and intelligent enough to do something about it when she’s had enough. Because counseling didn’t help her and her husband communicate more effectively on the subject of his spending, she may eventually have to make some decisions about her and her children’s futures. Let her know you love and support her, but do not stir the pot. Say little, if anything, on this subject and only if you are asked.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been invited to a surprise engagement party honoring a distant relative I’ll call “Elizabeth.” The invitation states, “Shhhh ... This is a surprise! Elizabeth doesn’t know about the impending proposal.”

Is this something new? What if she says no?! Does everyone go home or stay and endure an uncomfortable meal? Should we take a gift? Isn’t this beyond awkward and over the top? What’s next? — BEHIND THE TIMES?

DEAR B.T.T.: I agree that marriage proposals should be private and intimate, rather than a Hollywood production (if only because there’s always a risk that the person being proposed to might feel trapped, get embarrassed or refuse). However, you and I should not assume we speak for everyone.

Over the last decade or so, marriage proposals, invitations to senior proms, etc. have taken on a life of their own. And, if it makes people happy — and hurts no one — who are we to judge? As to whether to bring a gift to this event, it might be more prudent to bring one to the bridal shower rather than the surprise engagement party.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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