DEAR ABBY: I have a 59-year-old brother-in-law who has always been a "proud bachelor." He isn't a rich, handsome, George Clooney-type bachelor, but a hand-to-mouth, burping, uncouth "Shallow Hal" kind of bachelor. He befriended a woman with four daughters, paying most of his attention to one of the daughters. He would take the woman and her girls to dinner, and take the daughters shopping without the mother.
Fast forward eight years. He wants to take the one daughter on a trip to Hawaii. And he has been telling everyone she is now 18 (the girl is still in high school). Should I say something to him, or mind my own business? He will likely hang up on me. I don't know the daughters or their mom well. Am I wrong to hear some alarm bells going off?
- Wary in Washington
DEAR WARY: No, you are not wrong. The statement that the girl is "now 18" is a red flag for me, too. Rather than talk to your brother-in-law, inform the mother that he may be "grooming" her daughter for something more than an innocent tour of the islands. She should have noticed something was amiss eight years ago, when one daughter was singled out for special treatment, and put a stop to it then.
Domestic violence scarred her marriage
DEAR ABBY: I have been with my husband for five years. Early in our relationship, he became violent. Because of my economic status at the time, leaving was not an option.
I became pregnant with our child during our first year together. He ended up getting arrested for domestic violence against me (nothing toward our child) twice, and moved out for a year while court proceedings were taking place.
At first, he was incredibly cruel to me. I was so devastated by his arrests that I was grieving as if he had died. He then went through a series of interventions, and sought medical care and psychological counseling. He used to drink, but no longer does.
After a year, I let him move back home. But I no longer feel the same toward him. I am terribly unhappy. Even though he hasn't touched me and has toned down his anger, I can't forget the things he said and did to me. I don't want a divorce, though, because I do still love him. I just don't know how to proceed. Please help me.
- Victim in Oregon
DEAR VICTIM: Nowhere in your letter did you mention whether YOU sought counseling to help YOU recover from the verbal and physical abuse. If you didn't, do it now.
There is a saying, "You can't unring the bell." You may love your husband, but verbal abuse can leave as many, or more, scars than physical abuse does. Until and unless you can completely forgive him for what he did to you, you won't be able to move on.
And by the way, if it turns out that you cannot, don't blame or punish yourself for it. Sometimes it's better for two people who care about each other to go their separate ways because it is healthier for both of them.