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DEAR ABBY: This letter is a late response to "Emotionally Bruised," whose mother was supercritical. My mother also says and does the most incredibly heartless things to us. When our father was alive, he used to cover for her as much as possible in order to keep peace in the family. Now that my father has passed away, my sister and I have had to deal with my mother's inappropriate behavior.

Due to a family blowup just before Thanksgiving (the first holiday since my father's passing), we got Mother to attend two therapy sessions with my sister and me. Mother was her usual heartless, mean self in front of the therapist, so he was able to get a clear picture of what we had been dealing with. Later, in a private session, the therapist gave me some valuable information. He explained that my mother is extremely narcissistic. She is not, nor will she ever be, able to become empathetic or understanding of others.

In many ways, it was wonderful to have the validation and acknowledgment from an outsider about my mother's behavior; however it also felt like a death sentence. The therapist advised me to do all I can to protect myself from my mother, but to never stop telling her that her words and actions are hurting me. My silence all these years had led her to believe that I accept and agree with her.

It is always tough standing up to this woman, and the fallout afterward is difficult. However, I am not giving up. If I do, my children, who have witnessed their grandmother's heartless behavior for many years, will think that it's OK to allow someone to use you as a doormat. -- DESERVES TO BE RESPECTED, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.

DEAR DESERVES: The money you and your sister invested in the therapist was obviously well spent. I find it admirable that the two of you are able to tolerate your mother's company after having suffered her verbal abuse for so many years -- most victims wouldn't.

Since you have been advised that she is incapable of changing her behavior, it is essential that you "bullet-proof" your children if they are going to be exposed to her. They should not be led to believe that her behavior is something that should be expected from a mentally healthy person. Teach them that your mother suffers from a personality disorder, and they should not believe her when she says mean things.

DEAR ABBY: I have been in a long-distance relationship with a man for a year and a half, but he lives with a 55-year-old jealous female housemate. He tells me she's jealous of all of his friends.

He has proposed marriage to me and said he would move to my state, but there has always been some delay. Now he has moved out of their house and into his own place -- but he moved his female housemate in with him because she suffered a heart attack. Where does that leave me? -- WONDERING IN MARYLAND

DEAR WONDERING: It leaves you on the outside looking in. There's another hen in the nest. Face it, whether he's married, or the same as married -- he's unavailable.

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