Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When open mistreatment is seen, it's time to speak up
Demon-in-law: Surely your family has endured a seemingly lovely gal who marries in to your family, is loved, and turns into a psycho monster within a year or so of the nuptials?
My cousin's wife took this path, and her treatment of my aunt (her mother-in-law) is so awful it is painful to watch. Her most recent performance had numerous family members in tears. My aunt puts on a brave front, prays about it, and bites her tongue so she is not denied any more (ridiculously limited) time with her only grandson.
I'd like to approach my cousin with what we witnessed and basically ask him if he hasn't the spine to keep his wife from treating his mother so badly. Any suggestions on how to phrase it more politely?
Carolyn: Ask questions. Since it was a huge scene, you can say to your cousin, "After what happened the other day, I'm worried about Aunt B, but I also know I don't know the whole story. What is your perspective on what happened?"
The easy way out is for him to give you a "Mind your own business"-type answer, so expect one and have an answer ready, along the lines of: "Normally I'd agree with you, but when this happens in front of all of us, it becomes our business."
Live-and-let-live, yes, but not when you're a witness to open mistreatment. Someone needs to hold him accountable for his wife's behavior.
Anonymous: If it is about a year after the wedding and they already have a child, then could the cousin's wife be overwhelmed, post-partum, etc? I have seen pre-/post-wedding personality changes, but there were often clues ahead of time.
Carolyn: Worth considering, thanks. Not that it excuses nastiness, but at least it's a fixable problem. Unfortunately, though, the other possibility is less promising. Abusive women are often charming — until their place is cemented by vows and childbirth. Then they cut loose with their true selves. If that's the case, the cousin needs help.
Best friend: My best friend is awesome and I love spending time with her. Problem: it's hard actually spending time with her since she never answers her phone. She puts it on silent during class and then doesn't put the sound back on, almost every day. We'll call and text her about going out to lunch and not hear back from her until that evening, and then she's annoyed that she missed out. I'm also terrified there will be an emergency and I won't be able to get in contact with her. I've tried telling her this, but she dismisses it. Are there other ways to ask her to check her phone regularly? Or is this a live-and-let-live situation?
Carolyn: I can't see how it's anything but, unless she'll agree to wear a buzz collar, like a dog. They're frowned upon by dogvocates, but with humans, maybe the possibility for consent makes them a more defensible choice.
Re: Best friend
Anon: If her friend keeps her phone on silent all day AND gets annoyed that she's missing out on lunches, then her friend is a twit. Enjoy your twit-free lunches.
Carolyn: My favorite kind.