Dear Abby: Living with MIL a non-stop fight

Dear Abby: I’m a 35-year-old woman who is married to a 27-year-old man. We currently live in the same house as his mother. She lives downstairs; we live upstairs. Thanks to my husband’s upbringing, he has a hair-trigger temper. His dad has an explosive temper, and his mother is a narcissist. He’s never directed it at me, but his mother sets him off.

Sometimes, I think she does it on purpose because she has some kind of victim complex. I have tried everything to help him control his temper; nothing has worked. It has become normal for me to end the day with them fighting. I am exhausted by them. If they’re home before I go to work, they’ll get into some sort of yelling match. When I’m finishing my workday, he’ll call me and I’ll hear them arguing on the phone.

I’m tired of the fighting. It’s creating so much anxiety and depression. I have told him this and asked him to at least try to stop, but it’s still the same. What do I do? — Surrounded by War in Texas

Dear Surrounded: You are more mature than your husband, both emotionally and chronologically. He is still under his mother’s thumb, which is why she’s so good at pushing his buttons. It is time for you both to move as far away from his mother’s dwelling as possible. If you do, he will have less exposure to his mother, and you may have peace under your roof (once you unplug the phone).

Dear Abby: I have some advice for your readers who write regarding problems with how others behave badly or are verbally abusive or inappropriate toward them. Hopefully, it will help someone.

I suggest recording video of the offending individual while it’s happening, and then showing them the video later when they are calm/sober/receptive. If the behavior is drug- or alcohol-driven, this can show the person they’re not fun and funny; they are obnoxious and offensive. I’m certain I would have quit drinking years earlier had I been able to see how I acted while intoxicated.

This advice could also work with a relative you are concerned about with regard to dementia or Alzheimer’s. You could show the video to their doctor, rather than make generalizations about their behavior. Telling your husband to talk to his mom about how critical or rude she is to you puts your husband on the spot, and it’s still a “she said/she said” situation. Maybe your mother-in-law has no idea how she sounds. But she should. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth even more. — “Gotcha” in California

Dear “Gotcha:” I’m printing your letter because I think in some cases it has merit. However, videoing someone who is in the middle of a rant (or some other socially unacceptable activity) could cause some individuals to become violent. (“Stop videotaping me!!!”) That’s why I have to add that if one chooses to do this, they should be aware of the risk.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at

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