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by Abigail Van Buren

Stepmom's Job Gets Harder Without Husband's Support

DEAR ABBY: I am a 44-year-old woman who married "Barry" two years ago. He was a widower with two small boys, now 8 and 11.

I married Barry with the hope and understanding I could help to raise these children, but he now seems to resent my efforts. For example, he has made comments referring to himself as no longer being the primary disciplinarian by telling me, "I'm glad you're the bad guy now."

He constantly accuses me of asking too much of the boys. Abby, I expect them to clean their room and the bathroom they use. Barry also objects when I correct the kids' eating habits and manners -- like reminding them not to interrupt when two adults are talking.

Unfortunately, my husband's attitude is beginning to rub off on the oldest boy, who sometimes takes on a negative attitude when I ask him to do a chore -- or anything, for that matter.

Am I fighting a losing battle? Any suggestions you have would be helpful. -- FEELING ALONE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR FEELING ALONE: Without your husband's support, you are fighting a losing battle of "bait and switch." Your requests seem reasonable to me; however, the WAY you are teaching the boys may need an adjustment to make it more palatable. Family counseling could be helpful to all of you.

The Stepfamily Association of America is another terrific resource because more than 50 percent of families today are blended families. Membership is $40 a year, but the association offers support groups, retreats, Web sites, and access to have issues addressed with counselors. Find it on the Internet at:, with a link to a special site for stepmothers at The phone number is (800) 735-0329.

DEAR ABBY: My older sister, age 77, has been widowed for eight years.

She met a man from church whom she dates; it's the first time she has dated since being widowed. They spend some vacation time together and go on weekend trips.

He tells her he will never marry. She thinks someday she can change his mind. We know that he also sees a younger woman. He denies it -- and my sister believes him. He has broken off with her twice, and she keeps running back to him.

I want her to be happy. She has dyed her gray hair to an awful-looking brown and acts like a teenager. I have tried to talk to her, but she doesn't listen. Her health isn't good. What should I do? -- WORRIED SISTER

DEAR WORRIED SISTER: Be supportive and loving and let your sister live her own life. Whatever his intentions, it appears that this man from church has given your sister something to live for. Since her health isn't good, let her enjoy the time she has. She's hurting no one, and she may be stronger than you think.

P.S. If the romance ends badly, be supportive, bite your tongue, and DON'T say, "I told you so."

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: A bit of philosophy from Albert Schweitzer: An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while the pessimist sees only the red stoplight. The truly wise person is colorblind.

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