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by Abigail Van Buren

New Man in Daughter's Life Means Less Time for Mom

DEAR ABBY: My mother is a dear lady, and I love her very much. She is long divorced and hasn't remarried. She lives alone quite far from me. We have been very close for the past few years, because I have been single for a long time. We have visited each other often, traveled together, talked on the phone every other day, etc.

I have finally met the man of my dreams. I love him and like to spend a lot of time with him. My mother is not happy for me. In fact, she is devastated that I no longer wish to spend all my vacation time with her or travel with her or talk on the phone quite as often.

I feel I have abandoned her in favor of my new love, and I feel terrible. Yet I also feel it is time to focus on making a life of my own -- maybe even marry and have my own family. However, Mom is living alone, and seems so sad when I tell her I will be spending my vacation with my new love.

Abby, am I being cruel to her? I love my mother very much and don't want to hurt her. -- WAVERING IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

DEAR WAVERING: I'm not surprised that your mother is less than overjoyed at your newfound love. You have been her confidante, travel companion and major source of entertainment for a long time. She'd be less than human if she didn't want that to continue.

Wanting to marry and make a life of your own is not cruel, it's normal. Your mother is unfair to lay a guilt trip on you.

It's time to encourage her to reach out to contemporaries for the emotional support she needs. There are any number of ways she can meet them -- adult education classes, senior citizen centers, volunteer work, square dancing classes; there are even tours especially for seniors. Do not allow yourself to be maneuvered into the role of your parent's parent. It is one that could last her entire remaining lifetime.

DEAR ABBY: My husband has been divorced from his ex-wife since 1992. They did not have children.

Abby, he still has the key to her condo. He says it's because he does work for her. He is a painting contractor. I think he should return the key and get it only when he has work to do there.

She calls him for everything -- from picking her up after a dentist's appointment to starting her car a couple of times a month while she's out of town. I think she should call some of her other friends. She has to call him only once for him to do whatever it is she wants. I have been after him for three years to change the showerhead in our shower. (I purchased it three years ago.) He says I "nag" him. I think three years is a long time to wait. When she calls him, he leaves work and does whatever it is she needs.

Am I being unreasonable by asking him to return her key? If the situation were reversed, I wouldn't be allowed to keep an ex-boyfriend's key and go to his place to do errands for him. Please answer. This is becoming a big problem for me now. -- HURTING IN FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

DEAR HURTING: Your husband's first marriage may be over, but his emotional bond to his first wife hasn't been severed. I don't blame you for being upset. Most wives wouldn't tolerate what you have.

Tell your handy husband you feel threatened by his maintaining such a close tie to his former wife. You two are overdue for some marriage counseling. Pick up the phone and schedule an appointment. And while you're at it, call a plumber. Three years is too long to wait for your husband to install the showerhead.

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