DEAR ABBY: I am a 36-year-old single man who has boomeranged between living on my own and with my parents during the past three years. Finally, I'm planning to move to a permanent place of my own.
The problem is my mother appears to deeply resent my leaving. Ever since the moving issue came up, no matter what I do or say, I cannot do anything right by Mom. It's brought out the worst in her.
My new apartment is closer to my job, and it's only 30 miles away, so I will be able to visit my parents often. I understand that Mom has health problems and needs help, but I have five siblings in the area, and I could always be at my folks' quickly to help with any emergency.
Because I am not married nor do I have children, I sometimes think this makes my family feel as if it's my job to take care of our parents. I love them, but these past three years have created resentment and frustration on my part. I feel I would be a healthier person living on my own, but I don't know how to communicate this to Mom. Please help, Abby. This is tearing our relationship apart. -- FRUSTRATED SON IN FLORIDA
DEAR FRUSTRATED SON: Sometimes relationships need to be torn apart before they can be successfully reconstructed. Consider this move a period of growth for you and your mother. You are a loving son who has the right to a life of your own. However, your mother may have greater fears about her health than you realize. Speak to your siblings and urge them to stay closer in touch. She needs reassurance that someone is nearby to help her if she needs assistance.
DEAR ABBY: I have been living with "Jerry" for two years. When we moved in together, we both brought furniture and household items into our new home. I want us to buy a new sofa. Jerry insists on putting his old one into storage instead of getting rid of it. Should I be worried he isn't fully committed to our relationship? -- GOING NOWHERE IN CINCINNATI
DEAR GOING NOWHERE: No. I suspect the old couch holds memories for Jerry that he's reluctant to part with. Time may resolve this problem when he realizes that the fees for storing the couch add up to more than the purchase price.
DEAR ABBY: I have lived with "Fred" on and off for five years. We argue all the time. Last week, I moved out again. Fred gave me an engagement ring for Christmas two years ago, and that same week he asked an old girlfriend to go on vacation with him and his children. Episodes like this have happened more than once since we have been together.
Fred is very friendly with any female he meets, and it drives me crazy. I go back to him because he swears he wants only me, yet we still argue about women, kids, money -- you name it. I know he will never change and wonder if I still love him.
Abby, do you think I should continue counseling, marry Fred, or leave him for good? -- 55 AND CONFUSED IN TULSA
DEAR 55 AND CONFUSED: Continue counseling until you figure out why you keep returning to a ladies man with whom you have so many serious issues. Once you have that figured out, the answer to your question will be obvious.
DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced woman with two teen-age daughters at home. Recently I became engaged to a wonderful man. My fiance lives in another city and has a better-paying job than I do, so I plan to move after we marry.
The problem is my 14-year-old daughter, "Ryan." She refuses to even discuss the possibility of moving. I understand the transition may be hard for her, but she is a minor and I am the custodial parent.
Ryan has informed me that she has talked to her father about moving in with him so as not to leave her friends and school. Her father is an alcoholic and to this day refuses to get help. The reason we split up was that he was physically abusive to me.
Abby, I cannot in good conscience leave my daughter with him, so my only choice is to wait until Ryan finishes high school to be married. This is putting a huge strain on my relationship with my fiance, but I don't know what else to do.
Any advice, Abby? -- DESPERATE TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY
DEAR DESPERATE: You are the adult -- the custodial parent. The time to move is now, before your daughter becomes socially established in high school.
Ryan owes it to you to move with you and her sister and try it for a year. If, after that, she hasn't adjusted -- then it will be time to discuss other living arrangements.
DEAR ABBY: I recently moved to a small town in Texas, in order to marry a man, "Kenny," who has lived here all his life. This will be his second marriage and my first.
The problem? Everywhere I go -- the beauty shop, the market, church, get-togethers with Kenny's friends, you name it -- someone always brings up his ex-wife.
When Kenny and I announced our engagement, one of the girls at a church potluck complimented me on my ring. Then a guy piped up, "Well, Kenny ought to be good at picking rings out by now!" Abby, it ruined the entire moment. This happens all the time.
Will I forever live in the shadow of my fiance's first wife? What can I do to change it? Please don't reveal my name or city -- everyone in town would know it was me. -- IRRITATED IN A SMALL TOWN
DEAR IRRITATED: You don't have to live in the shadow of anyone unless you choose to. However, what you are experiencing is not unusual when you have a "recycled" fiance.
Accept the fact that, in an attempt at humor, people sometimes say thoughtless things. It may take time, but eventually the local folk will stop associating your husband-to-be with his former spouse.
In the meantime, keep your sense of humor and remember that Kenny is yours -- and you have the ring to prove it.
DEAR ABBY: My husband died one month after my daughter was married five years ago. After he died, I gave his expensive watch and gold ring to my son-in-law, "Cyrus." Unfortunately, my daughter and Cyrus are now splitting up. He has asked for a divorce and is moving to another state.
Abby, I would like my husband's jewelry back. However, I have always heard that once a gift is given you cannot ask for it to be returned. The jewelry has sentimental value, and I want it in our family. Under the circumstances, is it wrong to ask Cyrus to give it back to me? -- DOUBLY-SAD MOM
DEAR DOUBLY-SAD: By all means ask your son-in-law to return the items because of their sentimental value. However, you are right, once a gift is given it belongs to the receiver. Sweeten the pot by offering to replace the jewelry.
(Pauline Phillips and her daughter Jeanne Phillips share the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.)
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