• 70°

Long-ago divorce remains source of constant criticism

DEAR ABBY: I desperately need to learn how to cope with caring for my mother, who is living with me. We get along most days, however she is very much a “Negative Nancy” on all topics, especially my life.
I have been divorced for more than 10 years, but she digs about my ex and his new wife as often as possible. I have asked her repeatedly to stop, but she flat-out refuses because “he left me in financial ruin.”
Yes, my ex is more financially stable today than when we were married, but I am neither desolate nor destitute. She makes me feel like no matter what I do for her it’s not enough, and before you suggest it, our only option is to live together. Please help salvage my emotional state. — CHALLENGED IN TEXAS
DEAR CHALLENGED: For the sake of your sanity, you will have to learn to change the way you react to Mommy Dearest, who can’t let go of her grudge or resist stirring the pot. Do you think she does it because she enjoys needling you? Is she bored and has nothing better to talk about?
When she makes negative comments about your ex, don’t take the bait. Ignore her, leave the room or counter by saying something positive about him. (I hope you can come up with some good material.) And when she complains that you don’t do enough for her, start doing less, which may make you feel less taken for granted.
Understand that you may never please her, and when the quarantine ends, encourage her to spend time at a senior center, volunteering “to help others less fortunate,” or some other activity that will get her out of your house. You should also spend less time with her when you need to.
————
DEAR ABBY: My late husband and I had a dysfunctional marriage. He died in a car accident in 1995 at the age of 49. I was 44 then.
I did my best to shield my then-teenage daughter, “Wendy,” from his opiate addiction, suicide attempts, physical abuse and the constant flux of income because we were on and off welfare. On the flip side of his character, he was funny, super smart, helped anyone who needed help and was loved by everyone.
Little did I know, my husband had been confiding all of my perceived faults with Wendy over the years. Twenty-five years have passed, and she still has residual anger toward me for things I never did back then. It spills out when she judges me or accuses me about issues that happen between us today.
Her father was abusive and neglectful of her, too, but she doesn’t remember it. In her eyes, I was the bad guy in the marriage and he was the good guy and her hero forever.
I don’t know how to heal the ugliness between us. I don’t think it’s productive at this point to tell her how bad her father treated me back then. I continue to love her unconditionally, but it still doesn’t overcome her underlying pain and anger. Was I wrong for hiding everything from her? It’s not fair being thought of unjustly. What else can I do? — FAILING IN FLORIDA
DEAR FAILING: By protecting your daughter from the truth all these years, you have contributed to the situation you find yourself in. Tell your daughter it’s important the two of you get some issues out in the open, and if she agrees, make an appointment for you both with a licensed mental health professional who can facilitate and mediate the long-overdue discussion.
————
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
————
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order “How to Have a Lovely Wedding.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)