Annie's Mailbox for May 14, 2011: Wife convinced kids are scheming against her

Dear Annie: Two years ago, my wife and our 25-year-old daughter had a falling out right after our son's wedding. They talk during family get-togethers, but otherwise haven't spoken in the past six months. Meanwhile, my newly married son moved to his wife's hometown five hours away.

My wife is now convinced that our daughter-in-law is scheming to create a family rift and is manipulating the fights with our daughter. I don't agree, but my wife says I must take her side and have nothing to do with our kids until they apologize to her. This has caused tremendous friction in our marriage. I want my kids in my life.

We have tried couples counseling with little success. Short of walking away after 32 years, I don't know what to do. Is it wrong for me to give up?

— Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught: Your wife could be right about the daughter-in-law, but even so, it serves no purpose to demand an apology from someone who isn't likely to give one. Your wife also sounds like a difficult person. Has she always been like this? Some women have extreme mood swings during menopause. Please ask your wife to see her gynecologist about this possibility. We also recommend informing her that you will absolutely not take sides. If she doesn't wish to speak to her children, that's her choice, not yours. And it might help to point out that a future reconciliation is more likely if one of you remains in touch.

Dear Annie: My husband and I regularly send checks or gift cards to our grandchildren on their birthdays and at Christmas. The older the children become the less often we receive any acknowledgment.

With communication today being so quick and easy, I find it extremely disappointing that a simple e-mail cannot be sent with the words, "Thank you for the gift." It doesn't require a card, a stamp or a walk to the mailbox. Should I say anything to my children and grandchildren?

— Disappointed Grandmother

Dear Grandmother: Of course. Children need to be taught the importance of acknowledging a gift. If their parents have not done so, it is perfectly OK for you to call, text or e-mail your grandchild and say, "Did you receive the gift I sent for your birthday? Did you like it? Please let me know." Once they get a bit older, if they continue to ignore this obligation, feel free to tell them you will stop sending gifts since they apparently don't appreciate receiving them.

Dear Annie: I am a retired probation officer and would like to offer some suggestions to "Marriage on the Rocks," whose 51-year-old stepson lives rent-free in their trailer and may be using drugs.

  1. Call the police and have their drug team search your property, house and trailer for drugs or paraphernalia. If the stepson has any illegal substances, he goes to jail. Police don't need a warrant if you invite them to search your property.

  2. Sell or put the trailer in storage.

  3. Set conditions for the stepson to live at home, and enforce them. If he doesn't abide by the terms, enroll him at a local homeless shelter.

  4. Get a blood test to check for drugs, and make the tests sporadic and unannounced. If he tests positive for an illegal substance, kick him out. Peace of mind is better than second-guessing at a funeral. I know from personal experience.

  5. When you put him out of the house, do it with a crisis intervention team, and let him leave for treatment with the crisis intervention counselor. This way you don't come off looking like a jerk.

— Shaggy

Dear Shaggy: Your suggestions are strict but reasonable. And if the stepson is not, in fact, using drugs, points 2 and 3 still apply. But we doubt Mom will go along.

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