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by Abigail Van Buren

Martyred Mother Must Make Up Her Own Mind to Change

DEAR ABBY: In response to "Feeling Worthless in New Hampshire," I grew up in a home where my father called my mother stupid, illiterate, fat, and a host of other degrading things. He embarrassed her publicly and often scolded and yelled at her as though she were a child. My parents are both retired now.

By not acting on her own behalf, my mother has chosen to remain a victim and martyr. We, her children, tired long ago of her detailed complaints about how mean Dad is to her. We have heard the same broken record for years.

We have reminded her repeatedly that Dad is not going to miraculously change, and all her walking on eggshells, trying to read his mind and keep him happy, is sucking the life out of her. It's up to her to make the changes that will make her happy. She should let Dad be responsible for his own happiness for a change.

I, too, had a marriage in which my husband showed me little consideration or respect. It took me years of therapy and support groups to realize my worthiness. We separated for a year. My husband and I now attend an excellent marriage counseling program. We have reconciled and our marriage is flourishing.

"Feeling Worthless" should find a support group, counselor or therapist who will help her learn to command the respect she deserves. Through the therapy process, she'll realize that although she can't change her husband at this late date, she can change the way she reacts to him.

Kudos to you, Abby, for pointing out the monetary value of a woman who works inside the home. However, I'm convinced that "Feeling Worthless"'s husband will find another way to invalidate his wife's value because it interferes with his arrogant and selfish agenda. -- WORTHY OF DIGNITY AND RESPECT, SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR WORTHY: You and your mother appear to share a pattern of spousal abuse. Unfortunately, when your mother was younger, marital counseling wasn't as available as it is today. I commend you and your husband for seeking help when you needed it. It would be wonderful if your mother followed your example and sought professional help, but you cannot compel her to; she must find within herself the strength to go.

DEAR ABBY: In our society, many people listen to music, but so few seem to appreciate the joy and other benefits of singing. When I was in Italy, I heard a group of men on a public bus break into song.

Many of my students have thought they were tone-deaf because someone told them so when they sang off-key as children. Thereafter, they felt discouraged and afraid to sing. Thus they were deprived of years of the natural freedom found in expressing their joy through song. Nobody who can speak normally is tone-deaf, and no one should tell a child that he is.

Parents should encourage children to sing, and should sing to them. Some of my sweetest memories are of my mother singing to me. She even made up songs for us. Pets love to hear their masters sing, too.

The Bible admonishes us to sing. It says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord." You don't have to be an expert or even sing in tune. Singing, like laugher, can be healing.

To paraphrase a verse I've seen in your column:

"Richer than I you will never be,

"For I had a mother who sang to me."

-- RALPH EMERSON, TACOMA, WASH.

DEAR RALPH: I agree that singing frees the anchored spirit, and the performance doesn't have to be of Carnegie Hall quality. To discourage anyone from giving voice to his or her emotions is hard-hearted.

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