Brother puts abusive wife ahead of remaining family

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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DEAR ABBY: My older brother has had a tumultuous marriage to a manipulative, alcoholic, just-plain-mean woman. It has been bad over their entire 40-year marriage, including her physically assaulting him. 

He called the police the last time and had them take her away. She eventually kicked him out, and he went to stay at our younger brother’s home. He later got a hotel room and was away from her for two weeks. Then he decided to save money by returning to the home but staying in their camping trailer.

She invited him in for dinner, was very nice and they got back together. Now she has given him an ultimatum, stating that my younger brother and I do not treat her like “family.” So he called us and said he has to cut ties with us. 

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This is so disheartening. I told him I don’t accept that – he’s my brother and was my protector when I was a kid – but he said this is how it is. I am distraught. Our mom died five years ago, and our blood family is just the three of us. I don’t want to lose my brother. 

I always accepted his wife as the woman he chose to be with, regardless of her obnoxious behavior. I even used to call her weekly, only for her to always manage to say something mean-spirited toward me. I eventually decided the phone works both ways and stopped calling. We always went to every event she invited us to and have maintained a friendship with her children that my brother adopted. 

I need your input on how to get through my loss, or how to remain in contact with my brother regardless. – CONDITIONAL SIS IN MICHIGAN

DEAR SIS: Your brother is a willing hostage in his abusive marriage. Because he has reunited with his abuser does not mean the cycle won’t repeat itself. In other words, in time, he may be back. In the meantime, let him know you love him and will always be there for him should the need arise. 

As for how to get through this painful period, stay busy. Do not give yourself time to sit and brood. Then make a point of counting all the blessings you have in your life and realize that, for the time being, your brother is where he wants to be.


DEAR ABBY: I was a member of a nonprofit group for a couple of years. The wife of the leader bought me an old upright piano, thinking I would use it in a church they were starting. I was grateful for the piano and have used it a lot. It’s lovely. 

The nonprofit disbanded and we no longer see these people. They haven’t asked for it back or for any money. It would be a hardship to give them $200, and it seems like it was a gift. Do you think I need to give them $200? – A GIFT IN THE WEST

DEAR GIFT: If your conscience is telling you to remind them you have the piano and ask if they wish to be compensated, then make the call. It may make you feel better. Because you were not asked to return it, it is possible they won’t ask you for money. But if they do, try to work out an installment plan that won’t cause you stress.


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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)