DEAR ABBY: I have been in love with "Richard" for 14 years. We broke up after we dated for a while because my alcoholic mother kept interfering. She kept telling me how "bad" he was for me -- and I, thinking my mother had my best interests at heart, believed her.
After a divorce on my part and a breakup on his, we are now in a long-distance relationship. We hope to make our relationship permanent after getting to know each other again.
My problem is, when Richard is unhappy or upset with someone else, he takes it out on me. It doesn't seem to matter what happened, he'll pick a fight over something inconsequential. It drives me crazy.
I know what he's doing; I just don't know how to stop it. The latest flare-up involved the fact that his dog was missing, so he picked a fight with me because I "always tell him how nice the weather is where I live."
He refuses to get counseling. What do I do? -- PULLING MY HAIR OUT
DEAR PULLING: Your problem isn't that Richard uses you as a scapegoat for his frustrations; it's that you tolerate it. It's possible that because of your mother's alcoholism and the unpredictable behavior you were subjected to during your formative years, you have accepted Richard's behavior.
Because he refuses counseling, you should get some. What he's doing is not acceptable. It is emotional abuse. From my perspective, the healthiest thing you could do for yourself besides break up with Richard would be to keep the romance long-distance.
DEAR ABBY: I am a retired woman, active in my community and troubled by a recent incident involving a longtime friend. This is the third time it has happened, and it left me feeling embarrassed.
When we're out together meeting new people, she will introduce herself as being a secretary or a senior secretary and me as "just" a receptionist. The job title is true, but I hold a college degree. I have held other positions commanding greater respect. I am chair of the local Council on Aging, a Town Meeting member and on the Cultural Council. The last time it happened, I had brought her to a lunch at a very nice restaurant, and the people we were meeting were members of my community.
Why does this make me feel so demeaned? Am I being petty or vainly pretentious? Right now I no longer want to continue the friendship. Can you help me understand and form a game plan? I think I may be too close to the forest to see the trees. -- MORE THAN A JOB TITLE IN NEW ENGLAND
DEAR MORE THAN A JOB TITLE: Your "friend" is insecure. That she describes you as "just" a receptionist is her attempt to make her own job designation appear more important. And that's what is offensive.
You don't need a "game plan" in dealing with her. "Just" tell her to cut it out or the friendship will be history. Whatever happens after that, your problem will be solved -- one way or another.
DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine gave me some books -- books she didn't like! My question: Why would you pass on something you did not enjoy reading? -- THERESA IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR THERESA: Perhaps she thought you would like them. Because she didn't care for the books didn't mean you automatically wouldn't. Or, having paid for them, she didn't want the money she had spent to go to waste.
My thought: Give her the benefit of the doubt and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
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