Dear Annie: My wife and I have been married for 34 years. I love her dearly and would do anything for her.
When my wife was 8 years old, she was molested by her uncle (her maternal aunt's husband). She told me about this before we were married, and she made it clear that she never wanted her father to find out. She thought it would destroy him and ruin his relationship with his sister-in-law.
My father-in-law passed away suddenly 10 years ago. My wife told her mother and her two brothers about the molestation. Her mother confronted the uncle, as any parent would do. But he denied his guilt, and his wife threw her out of their home and said she never wanted to speak to her again. My mother-in-law and her sister have not spoken since then.
Three years ago, my not-so-wonderful mother-in-law accused my wife of lying, saying the molestation was my wife's fault and because of it she has lost the love of a sister. This made me very angry. I talked to my mother-in-law, but she refused to rescind her accusations toward my wife. My wife refuses to speak to her mother now. An additional problem is that my wife's younger brother, with whom she was always close, accuses her of holding a grudge, and he's giving her the silent treatment.
Is there any way to fix this mess? How could we possibly forgive my mother-in-law for the hurtful things she has said about my wife? — Pete
Dear Pete: It is reprehensible for your mother-in-law to blame your wife for the molestation. The fault lies squarely with the uncle, and the estrangement is because the aunt backed him up. Your mother-in-law misses her sister, and as she gets older, the loss is weighing on her. She took out her grief on your wife. The brother is simply contributing his part to the family proclivity for estrangement. If you want it to end, someone has to take the first step toward forgiveness. If your mother-in-law is willing, family counseling could help with reconciliation.
Dear Annie: For the past few years at Christmas, my husband and I have donated to an animal shelter in our area instead of receiving or giving gifts. It makes our giving complete to give to others in need.
We generally celebrate Christmas with my stepdaughter and her family at their home a few hours away. We tell them in advance that we will be donating to an animal shelter and ask that they also consider it.
Last year, on Christmas Day, there were gifts from them to us under the tree. Meanwhile, we brought nothing and felt terrible. They don't seem to understand when we tell them the only gift we need is a donation to an animal shelter. Is there a way for us to feel more gracious about receiving their gifts when we brought nothing for them? Should we bring gifts this year? I realize they are giving us a "hint" to do so, but our hearts aren't in it. — Grinch in Arizona
Dear Grinch: They aren't giving you hints. You prefer donations, but they do not, and you don't get to tell them what to give you. Bring a card, preferably from the animal shelter, saying a donation has been made in their honor. That's your gift to them, and it's lovely. There's no reason to feel embarrassed.
Dear Annie: I am replying to "Frustrated," the gentleman who has been married for 27 years. I, too, have been married for 27 years. In the beginning, sex was white hot. After a while, it became pleasurable, but not the center of our relationship. Then I developed prostate cancer. We studied all of the options and chose prostatectomy. Now I can't "perform" anymore. But our marriage is much stronger. Count your blessings.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2013. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.