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Annie’s Mailbox: Hubby feels MIL treats family poorly

Dear Annie: My wife and I have been married for 26 years, and we are very happy. When we first married, we moved next door to my widowed mother-in-law to help her out. About 12 years later, however, we moved to a more family-friendly community 20 miles away where we could raise our three children. My wife stays in close contact with her mother. But Mom has always treated us as if we are less important than my wife’s siblings and their children. For example, every Christmas, the other grandchildren receive gifts carefully selected especially for them, while our kids get cash. This pattern has spread to infect my wife’s sisters. The latest acts of rudeness are a wedding that requires a two-day hotel stay on New Year’s (even though the couple was married six months ago in a civil ceremony) and another niece’s destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. We don’t have that kind of money. My question is: Should I feel guilty telling my wife’s sisters that I cannot afford to attend these events? While I will certainly give the bride a lovely gift, how do I make the in-laws realize and appreciate our circumstances without making things worse? How do I make my wife realize that her mother and siblings treat us like second-class relations? Because I love and respect my wife, I have bitten my tongue for years. I’d appreciate your opinion. – Fed Up in Ohio

Dear Ohio: Your wife loves her family, even if they don’t treat her as well as you’d like. Don’t sow discontent. Be supportive, letting your wife know how much you love and appreciate her. It will give her the strength to deal with her relatives. Meanwhile, since you cannot manage a destination wedding, it’s perfectly OK to send your regrets. If your wife wants to attend and it is affordable, let her go without you. This is a reasonable compromise for such family events.

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