Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: A Bully's Sister-in-Law

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: What is the best way to deal with someone who is a bully and verbally abusive? My brother-in-law is very demeaning to my sister. He makes cruel remarks about her physical appearance, calls her names and criticizes everything she does if it isn't exactly what he likes.

My sister has been married to this bully for 30 years. I really don't know how she has put up with him for so long. I try not to spend a lot of time around my brother-in-law, but when I'm with the two of them, I want to defend my sister. I'm just not sure how to go about it.

Is it best to ignore a bully's comments or is there a way to put him in his place? -- A Bully's Sister-in-Law

Dear Sister-in-Law: Please talk to your sister. This is not a bully on the playground, who should be held accountable. This is your sister's husband and while you want to protect her, you also must respect her wishes.

How does this abusive behavior affect her? She could be afraid or she may be ignoring him. After 30 years, she may not be bothered by it. Does she want your help? Would she prefer that you not intervene?

Encourage your sister to speak up for herself or ask whether you can counteract her husband's negative remarks with more positive ones. You can suggest she speak to someone at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline ( But ultimately, this is her marriage and she gets to decide how to handle it. You cannot force her to want something better. You can only be a source of love and support.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Missing Her," the woman who was looking for a way to lessen her guilt over firing "Maria," the nanny who had worked for her family for 20 years. Maria's services are no longer required, now that her youngest child is old enough to drive herself around.


Certainly, this employer has paid into Maria's Social Security taxes over the years, hasn't she? And also contributed to their state's unemployment insurance program for her employee?

If "Missing Her" can't "justify the cost" of keeping the woman who dedicated so much of her life tending Missing's children, she should at least help Maria apply for programs to which she is entitled. This will benefit her ex-employee far more than a farewell gift. -- M.

Dear M.: You are not the only one to bring this up. Several readers asked whether "Missing Her" had been paying federal and state taxes as Maria's employer. We suspect not. A great many people who hire nannies (and housekeepers, etc.), pay them in cash, especially if they are not U.S. citizens. It also is not uncommon for these same employees to prefer cash payments because they, too, do not want to pay taxes.

But avoiding taxes on these employees is not only against the law, it does them a grave disservice when they are no longer in your employ and have no benefits. It's too late to do this retroactively for Maria, but it's not too late for others who are hiring good people to help them in their homes and who will become part of their families.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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