DEAR ABBY: My son's former wife was difficult — manipulative, spoiled and possessive. I tried to get along with her, but no matter what I did, she gave me no respect and turned my son against me. They have been divorced for six years. He began dating a few years ago, and each woman is a carbon copy of the ex-wife. He falls right back into the same pattern of ignoring me and letting his girlfriends "possess" him. I'm deeply hurt. I don't understand why he feels he has to choose between them and me. He is my son, and I shouldn't have to compete for his love.
I'm getting older now and have asked him for some help, but he refuses. I would just like a regular phone call and to see him. I am no longer invited to his house for holidays, nor does he randomly call just to talk. He has a new girlfriend, and it's back to the same old pattern. Please advise me. — LOW PRIORITY IN OHIO
DEAR LOW PRIORITY: Please accept my sympathy. I know you are hurting. It seems your son is more attentive to you when he's between girlfriends but has tunnel vision when a new woman enters his life. For your sake, it's important you begin concentrating on building a reliable support system that is independent of him. To accomplish this, you must be willing to lend support to others, which will give you less time to be lonely. Volunteering may be the way to begin, whether for a charity, a political organization or your place of worship. There is so much need out there; you will feel better once you start filling it.
DEAR ABBY: After 37 years of marriage, all of a sudden, my husband has a problem with how I speak. He says it's my "tone." I can no longer discuss anything with him because it always ends up in an argument, not about the actual words I say, but how I say them. He can't seem to help himself. He constantly criticizes something about whatever I say. He has taken my voice away, and I feel invisible. He talks to me, but I'm supposed to only listen. If I ask a question or make a comment, he gets mad because I'm "interrupting him." I can no longer add to or participate in the conversation. After all these years, I can't communicate. It's like he hates the sound of my voice. Please tell me what to do. — SILENCED IN TEXAS
DEAR SILENCED: As a matter of fact, I do have a suggestion (or two). The first is that both you and your husband should have your hearing checked. You may be speaking more loudly than you used to, or your husband may have developed some kind of sensitivity to sounds in your vocal range. Second, if your hearing and his are within normal ranges, and everything checks out during your next physical exam, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed marriage and family therapist. The behavior you are describing seems to be controlling and disrespectful, and a therapist may be able to guide you before you lose your mind.
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