Child-rearing philosophies clash in new relationship

Published 8:30 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship for more than a year. We met at the gym. We have similar interests and are both normally caring and loving to each other. We also have similar senses of humor.
We moved in together too quickly, after only six months. Our attempt at blending our kids and families has hit a lot of hard bumps. He is a very assertive and aggressive parent, while I’m the opposite. He has helped me with pointers and advice on taming my two boys’ “attitudes,” and both have changed the attitudes they had before and are doing good.
The problem is, my boyfriend has become controlling to the point that when anyone seems a little disrespectful or doesn’t do what they were supposed to or told to do, he gets in the middle of it. When we have an argument, if we disagree on something, he curses at me or calls me names. This has become a dealbreaker for me. He says I spoil and coddle my kids, which is a dealbreaker for him. He always apologizes afterward, but then he does it again. This may seem obvious, but is this as clear as I’m thinking that we should break up? – SOMEWHAT HOPELESS

DEAR SOMEWHAT HOPELESS: Because your “gentleman” (I use the term advisedly) friend becomes verbally abusive when you have a disagreement, recognize that he continues to do it because it works for him. The example his behavior has set for your boys is atrocious. I’m pleased that you are thinking as clearly as you have been. Offer him the option of couples counseling. If he refuses, for your kids’ sakes if not for your own, move out and move on. The person you’re involved with isn’t just “aggressive” as much as he is a bully.
DEAR ABBY: My brother, who is 48, has mental issues. I have always tried to be there for him as much as I could without interfering with his independence. Although he is antisocial, he isn’t dangerous to anyone. He has low self-esteem and takes things literally.
My parents have always been emotionally detached, but my brother has always craved Dad’s acceptance. Because he felt that Dad favored me, he pushes me away and isolates himself. I have tried to stay in contact, and if I see him at the store, I speak to him, but he is so full of anger. Should I keep trying even though it’s painful? I have tried telling him how I feel about the situation, but he lives in his own little world and can’t relate to my feelings. I just worry that if he were to pass, I would feel guilty for not trying harder, but he makes it so difficult and painful. – FACING OBSTACLES IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR FACING OBSTACLES: You are a good sister. But for your brother’s sake as well as your own, it may be time to distance yourself emotionally from his mental problems. He may treat you the way he does because he is incapable of interpersonal relations, not because of anything you did or didn’t do. Because you would feel guilty if you disengaged entirely, contact your brother every six or eight weeks or so to check in. If you encounter him in a store, be polite. If he’s angry or belligerent, back off, continue your shopping or leave. Please don’t take this as personally as you have. Your brother is unwell. YOU CAN’T FIX WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM. Follow your conscience, which is more than your parents have been doing – and forgive yourself for not being able to do more.
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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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