Dear Abby: What should I have said to my new 24-year-old stepdaughter who started bawling when her father and I told her that we had eloped? She wasn't crying out of happiness or even disappointment that she hadn't been invited. In fact, the first thing out of her mouth was to ask her father, "Did you make her sign a pre-nup?"
Abby, I have never in my life felt so humiliated and offended by someone else's rude behavior. If we hadn't been out to dinner, I would have left immediately. She was sobbing uncontrollably at the table. But I held my head high and forced a smile for the rest of the meal.
Now I'm not really sure how I should act toward her. Before her father and I married, I thought we had a very friendly relationship. I never imagined a reaction like the one she had. I feel it was rude, tacky, inappropriate and cruel. Part of me never wants to see her again. Any suggestions? — Crushed in California
Dear Crushed: I don't blame you for feeling her behavior was rude, tacky, inappropriate and cruel. But you are all "family" now, and face it, you will be seeing her again. So my recommendation is to recognize that she was shocked and forgive her candor and loss of control. But don't forget it.
Dear Abby: My son, "Ian," has a girlfriend, "Patty," who is 5 1/2 months pregnant. Patty is bipolar, but she is not being treated for it and will not take medication. She has gotten mad at Ian and literally beaten him up. The last time it happened, Ian ended up with scratches on his face and a large bite on his upper arm. Patty was arrested and had to spend four days in jail.
Meanwhile, her mother, "Liz," came over to Ian's house and proceeded to tell me about Patty's life.
Before this all happened, Patty told me she didn't want me to meet Liz because she was "crazy." While Patty was in jail, Liz told her that I had said Patty needed to be institutionalized. What I did say was that Patty needs to be analyzed. Her mother also said that Ian's house has "bad spirits" in it. Now Patty refuses to move back home with my son.
Abby, this girl needs a lot of understanding and help, but how can I help her if she thinks I said all these bad things about her? A horrible thing happened while Patty was in jail. Her mother killed herself. What can I do to help her? I know and understand her special needs. I want to be there for her and the baby. Can you help me? — Caring Grandmother-to-Be
Dear Caring: Remind Patty that she told you how mentally ill her mother was, which was proven to be true by the fact she committed suicide. Explain that her mother may have thought you said she (Patty) needed institutionalization, but she was "confused." What you really said was that Patty should be evaluated to determine the cause of her mood swings and to determine if there is medication she could take to calm them.
Frankly, I, too, am concerned for the baby's welfare. Because Patty becomes violent when she "loses it," it might be safer if your son has legal custody of the child until his girlfriend becomes more stable. I recommend that you and Ian explore that option with a lawyer NOW.
Dear Abby: My husband of 10 years recently left me for another woman. My mother-in-law e-mailed me today telling me to return all of the gifts given to us for anniversaries and Christmas for the past 10 years. I am hurt beyond words.
What would be the best way to respond to her e-mails? — Stewing in Seattle
Dear Stewing: There are times when silence speaks volumes. The strongest message you could send this woman would be to ignore her outrageous e-mail.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate