DEAR ANNIE: My wife and I have been married for 22 years. We each have two kids from previous marriages, and together, we have a son. All of our kids are doing wonderfully, except for my wife's daughter.
I don't mind helping out now and then, but "Bertha" is a complete mess. She is 33, with three children from three different fathers, none of whom pay child support.
Bertha has hated me from Day One and has tried to sabotage our relationship every chance she gets. She works full time and makes a decent salary, but still mooches off of us on a monthly basis. My wife sends her thousands of dollars. Bertha's kids have video game systems, expensive TV sets and fancy clothes. My wife pays Bertha's rent and phone and electric bills, and sends her gift cards for groceries.
The worst thing is that my wife lies about this and hides the expenses from me. She knows I am against sending all of our extra money to Bertha. I've told her she is enabling this child and Bertha will never get a handle on life if mommy always takes care of things. My wife recognizes that sending Bertha so much money is wrong, but she refuses to ask her daughter to account for the money. Instead, she just sends more. I keep complaining, and she keeps giving.
Bertha is the single source of our marital trouble, and my wife is even talking about divorce. I want to retire next year, but we now don't have enough in savings to do so. In recent months, we have taken to keeping our money separate. I don't want to be Bertha's never-ending meal ticket. My wife is becoming increasingly bitter toward me. Is there any way to get through to her? -- Tired in Toledo
DEAR TOLEDO: Your wife feels obligated to help her daughter, and every time you display anger, she becomes defensive and more entrenched in her position. Separate banking accounts is an excellent idea, although not a solution. Please ask your wife to come with you for counseling so she can understand how her behavior toward Bertha helps no one and you can figure out how to respond to this in a more productive way -- for yourself, if not for your marriage.
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