DEAR ABBY: How do I forgive myself for staying with my husband “for the sake of the kids” and because I was afraid of him? Our children are teenagers now and both suffer from low self-esteem and depression. We lived far away from any family while they were growing up, and I was financially dependent and scared. I realize now that it wasn’t the right thing to do.
My husband is trying to do better, but the damage is done. The relationship between our children and their dad is very strained. I don’t know how to move forward. Any advice? — In Pain in Wisconsin
DEAR IN PAIN: A way for your children to heal some of the damage your husband has caused would be for you to arrange for them to talk with a licensed family counselor.
A way for you to move forward would be to find a job, take your kids and live apart from your abuser. If you haven’t already done that, and you are still afraid he might be violent, then you should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org, 800-799-7233) and ask for help in formulating an escape plan.
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Help for compulsive mom
DEAR ABBY: Because I’m unemployed, I am currently living with my parents. I am 40, but my mother treats me as if I am an 8-year-old boy. Among other things, she forbids me to leave the house without her permission and considers my room to be a mess she must clean if even a single book is out of place on my desk.
I believe my mother has obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have told her this and recommended she get herself evaluated. She refuses to listen, even after I gave her a month’s worth of examples illustrating which of her actions meet the criteria.
I want to remain sane as I try to find employment and a way out of her house. Have you any suggestions? — Going Mad in South Dakota
DEAR GOING MAD: As an adult, you should not have to ask anyone’s permission to leave the house. It’s time for a man-to-man talk with your father. What does HE think of this? Has your mother always been this way? While you’re talking with him, bring up the fact that she is showing signs of OCD and see if he can convince her to be evaluated. If she does have it, there are treatments for it and it might greatly benefit their marriage, as well as your relationship with your mother.
No more excuses
DEAR ABBY: My two sons are 30 and 31. Both are married with families of their own. My husband has been their stepdad for 20 years, and a very good one.
Neither of my boys ever remembers their stepdad on his birthday. When I ask why, they say, “Oh, Mom, I’m really bad at remembering stuff like that.” Well, this year I intend to “forget” THEIR birthdays so they and their wives will know how it feels to be forgotten.
Do you think I’m being petty? I think that at their ages, it’s time they took responsibility for themselves. — On Their Case in Oklahoma
DEAR ON THEIR CASE: I have a better idea. Ask your sons to program your husband’s birthday into their electronic devices. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to get a reminder about important events. Their wives might thank you for it, because if the “boys” forget their stepdad’s birthday, there’s a good chance they forget other important days — like their anniversaries or their wives’ birthdays, too.