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by Abigail Van Buren

Jealous Stepfather Makes Life Miserable at Home

DEAR ABBY: I am a loyal wife who does not take divorce lightly, but I'm thinking about leaving my husband, "Joe." He is very hard on my 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, "Natalie."

Joe is very strict in disciplining her, to the point of being unreasonable. It has become so bad that Natalie says she hates him and wants to leave him. My two older children, who no longer live with us, feel the same way about Joe. Even my "strict" father is unhappy with the way Joe treats Natalie.

If I honestly thought he loved my daughter and was acting out of love, I might feel differently. However, he has made it clear he dislikes ALL my children -- with a long list of "reasons."

I told Joe my children are my No. 1 priority, and if anyone in my life is a variable, it's him. He finally admitted he's jealous of Natalie and the time we spend together.

As unhappy as I am with Joe's behavior, I'm afraid if I give in to Natalie's request that I leave him, she may try to manipulate me in other ways. Please help me find a solution. -- MISSISSIPPI WIFE AND MOM

DEAR WIFE AND MOM: For your husband to take out his jealousy and resentment of your parental duties on your daughter is deplorable. While I don't think that a 12-year-old should dictate with whom a parent spends his or her life, in this case, your daughter may have a point.

However, before you make any decisions, I urge you, Joe and Natalie to get family counseling to see if his jealousy can be worked out. If it can't, then a separation until your daughter is 18 may be in order.

DEAR ABBY: For the past nine months, I have been secretly married to a man of whom my family does not approve. I have been able to keep them in the dark because I am a student and live in another state. I'm 33 years old, Abby, and, knowing the problems it will cause, I need some tips on how to tell my family. Help! -- NOT A CHILD IN ILLINOIS

DEAR NOT A CHILD: I agree that at 33, you are not a child; you are an adult who has made an important decision. While it would be nice if your family approved of your choice of life partners, one of the basic premises of marriage is that you are forming a family unit of your own. Call your parents and relatives and share the "good news" with them. How they react will be their problem. Please don't continue to make it yours.

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, a reader shared a humorous experience about her smoke alarm going off. She regarded it as a "sign" from her deceased father that he was OK.

My beloved husband, Frank, was blind from diabetes when he died. He had owned a "talking watch." Since it had been such an important part of his daily life, it was on his wrist for the funeral -- with the voice and alarm turned off.

The minister who officiated at Frank's service began "preaching" instead of fondly remembering my late husband's life, and right smack in the middle of the sermon, somehow my husband's watch alarm went off! Later someone said, "Yep, that was Frank. He was letting the preacher know it was time to quit!" -- SUSAN, COLEMAN, MICH.

DEAR SUSAN: Let's just say it took a miracle to turn a wristwatch into a "stop" watch.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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