January 19, 2011

Dear Delphi,

I have offered my daughter-in-law all sorts of economic bribes: private school for her children, an all-expenses-paid vacation”€”even a free house”€”but nothing works. She still will not leave my son. I want her to leave because I think my son is crazy and is going to ruin my grandchildren. He can”€™t give them all the things I can, but he doesn”€™t seem to care one bit. How can I get my daughter-in-law to understand it is wrong to stay with him? I want her to leave!

“€”Stubborn Daughter-in-Law in Denver

Dear Stubborn Daughter-in-Law in Denver,

It sounds like your daughter-in-law actually loves your son and did not marry him for money. This should be great news. But considering you seem to want to break up their family, it is really bad news. It is near impossible to convince or bribe a woman into leaving her husband if she loves him. The only way to get her to leave would be to threaten bodily harm to her children, and seeing as I don”€™t want to believe you are criminally insane, there is NO way to coax her into leaving him.

If your son is “€œcrazy”€ because he does not put a premium on material things but you think he needs more money to take care of his family, then help him! Help him pay for school or trips that he would otherwise be unable to afford. He does not have to be out of the picture for you to help your grandchildren.

Maybe you think the problem goes deeper than his attitude about money. If you believe your son is clinically insane and may hurt his wife and children, get him help. Send him to a psychologist to test your suspicions; if you”€™re right, figure out a treatment plan.

But instead of trying to tear his family apart, why not try getting more involved with them? Visit as much as you can. Show his wife and children what you think is the right way to live. Even if he has strong communist ideals it will not be hard to swing his children into becoming good, tax-fearing capitalists if you show them the way.


Dear Delphi,

My mother-in-law plus all the cousins, uncles, and aunts had Christmas lunch together, but my family was not invited because my wife is fighting with her mother. They”€™ve been fighting for a while, but my wife totally lost it when my mother-in-law sent us pictures of Christmas lunch. Is there anything I can do to help the situation? It is out of control. My wife keeps calling and hanging up on her mother at all hours, day and night.

“€”Harangued Husband in Hanover

Dear Harangued Husband in Hanover,

There are three ways to explain your mother-in-law’s behavior: 1) she is socially inept and has no clue how her actions affect other people; 2) she is a heartless, arrogant pig who only thinks of herself and couldn”€™t care less how her actions affect other people; or 3) she did it on purpose to anger your wife”€”her daughter”€”because she still wants to fight about whatever it was they were fighting about in the first place.

“€œPutting a woman on a pedestal can only lead to disappointment.”€

Unfortunately, it’s foolish to try and settle a mother/daughter dispute regardless of how unpleasant your mother-in-law is. Unless by “€œhelp”€ you mean unconditionally taking your wife’s side and telling off your mother-in-law, I suggest you let your wife work it out on her own.

Where you could be helpful is hashing out more elaborate, less sophomoric ways to irritate her mother. Your wife needs practical help in creating a more sophisticated battle plan that cannot be traced back to her. If your mother-in-law is the type who schedules regular hair, nail, or massage appointments, cancel them. If she hates pet hair but still comes to visit, throw her coat on the doggie bed before you give it back to her. If she can”€™t live without her cable TV, go cut the wire. Redirect all telemarketers to your “€œwork number,”€ then give them her number.

The options are limitless; get creative.


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