Father’s threat leads to change in family dynamics

Published 8:16 am Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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DEAR ABBY: While I was visiting my father-in-law, a heated conversation turned violent. My husband, “Rob,” was helping his dad and a neighbor with a house project. When Rob’s dad became upset at him, he lifted the power saw he was holding, turned it on and motioned toward Rob saying, “You’re lucky I don’t slit your throat.” He said some other unkind things and we left. He has not reached out to my husband since, and Rob has deleted his phone number. 

His dad sent me a text taking no responsibility for his actions and blaming Rob, which is why we have decided to cut ties for now. We have a teen daughter, and my father-in-law has also texted her. We do not want her around him, and Rob wants to instruct her not to respond. The day his father acted like this was also the one-year anniversary of the passing of his long-term girlfriend (who was more like a wife). Should we tell our daughter not to respond to his messages? – THREATENED IN OREGON


DEAR THREATENED: Your daughter is old enough to know what is going on and to be able to respond to her grandfather’s texts. (I’m not sure how you could stop her.) However, she should ALSO be made aware that, in a moment of anger, her grandfather threatened to KILL her father, which is why you have decided it is safer to keep your distance. At the least, “dear old Dad” owes his son an apology.


DEAR ABBY: Is it acceptable to put someone on speakerphone without informing them? I recently had a conversation with my younger sister about our mother’s health issues. In the background, I heard someone make a comment to her about something I had said about our parents. When I asked, “Who is that?”, she said it was her live-in boyfriend (of two years) and that I had been on speakerphone the entire time. I immediately ended the conversation. 

Please understand that no one in our family has met or spoken to this man other than my sister. To me, he’s a stranger. I felt it was inappropriate for him to listen in on our conversation whether it was a personal family issue or not. I’m not sure if “violated” is the right description for how I felt after hanging up, but it didn’t sit well with me even though nothing derogatory had been said. 

Am I behind the times, or did my sister make an error in judgment? I have not discussed my displeasure with her, but I plan to. My wife agrees with me but says I should drop it and be mindful of my sister’s actions going forward. –  OVERHEARD IN FLORIDA


DEAR OVERHEARD: The rule of etiquette is that the person you call should ask before putting someone on speaker if someone else is present. That said, Sissy and her boyfriend have been living together for two years. I doubt she keeps secrets from him. What she hears she shares with him. The next time you want to discuss some “family business” with her, open the conversation by telling her you would like her to please not put you on speaker. Then cross your fingers and hope she complies.


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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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