DEAR ABBY: I am in my mid-20s, and a few years ago my mother divorced my stepfather. They were married for 17 years, and I grew up with him in the house for most of my life. After my sister was born, his behavior toward me changed to the point that in high school I spent most of my free time elsewhere to avoid his passive-aggressive behavior toward me.
Now that he and Mom are no longer together, he has been contacting me wanting to spend time with me. I feel awkward spending time with him because he acts like we were best friends when I was growing up. If I try to politely get out of it, he makes dramatic comments about no one caring if he lives or dies.
I would like to cut him out of my life and avoid the stress he causes me, but I’m afraid it will cause a rift between me and my sister, who had a great relationship with him and is always trying to get me to talk to him. I also know if I try to cut him out, he will start harassing my sister, and she doesn’t need that while she’s going to college. Should I stick it out for her? — WANTING TO END TUG-OF-WAR
DEAR WANTING: Have a conversation with your half-sister and explain that when you were growing up you didn’t have the same kind of relationship with her father that she did. Tell her you hope this won’t cause any problems between the two of you because you know she loves him, but that for the sake of your own mental health, you intend to avoid him and the unpleasant memories he evokes as much as possible. If you are thrown together for some occasions, at least there will be others around to buffer the contact.
DEAR ABBY: I recently found out my husband has been sending money to family and friends behind my back. He constantly sends money to his adult daughter who plays him like a fiddle.
It isn’t large amounts, but I have two issues with it. When it’s time to pay bills, I end up paying more than my share because he doesn’t have the money (we split our budget a while ago). Also, when I have asked if he has been doing this, he lies to my face.
This isn’t the first time he has lied to me, and I don’t know how to move past it. Last time, it was about drugs. I was ready to walk away because therapy helped me see that the problem wasn’t me, but then we worked on it. Now it’s about money.
I love him and would like to spend the rest of my life with him, but if there’s anything I can’t stand it’s a liar. What should I do? — LIED TO IN NEW ENGLAND
DEAR LIED TO: You should not be paying more than your share of the bills. It isn’t fair to you. By paying other people’s bills, your husband is enabling them to remain dependent upon him — and you. Call the therapist who helped you the last time. It appears you have more work to do.
DEAR ABBY: I’m having a picnic at my house. I invited the old man next door, and now he has taken it upon himself to invite other neighbors. What am I supposed to do? — DISCONCERTED IN THE EAST
DEAR DISCONCERTED: The old man next door has a lot of nerve. You have several choices. Tell him to uninvite the people he invited to your picnic, do it yourself or roll over and let him take advantage of your hospitality.