DEAR ABBY: My stepmother -- the only mother I have ever known -- has been clinically diagnosed with a paranoid personality. This means she is suspicious, a martyr in any situation and flatly denies anything she thinks would cast her in a negative light. She can be very convincing. Once or twice she has even convinced me that my memories were wrong, although the facts were later corroborated by other family members.
People who can't see through her "act" consider my mother to be a saint. Those who see her clearly know that she's spiteful and vindictive. She has, for years, refused to take her prescribed medicine and won't explore any other treatment. She insists the problem is with everyone else, especially me.
You have told others about the need to cut toxic friends and relatives out of their lives, but how does one do it? I know there will never be closure or a good relationship, but I can't help wanting one. I'm in my mid-30s and feel if my mother doesn't love me, how can anyone else? -- NEEDS A RESOLUTION IN GEORGIA
DEAR NEEDS A RESOLUTION: You have more than one problem. Removing toxic individuals from one's life is as easy as refusing to go along with their behavior. Once you draw the line, those people will "help" you by cutting you out of theirs. Your mother's mental illness may prevent her from loving anyone -- not you specifically.
I hope you realize how important it is to discuss your feelings with a licensed psychotherapist. You have an entire upbringing by a woman with a damaged personality to overcome. The fact that she couldn't love you does not mean you are unlovable. And the sooner you are able to accept that, the more lovable you will be because you will like yourself more.
DEAR ABBY: Ten years ago I was suddenly widowed after many years of marriage. Because I was totally "available," I became very involved with my children and grandchildren. I did not date.
About a year ago, that changed. I met "Gerald," a man who makes me very happy. We enjoy dinners together, dancing and travel. We spend three nights a week together -- usually at my place.
My brothers and friends are happy for me, but my daughters have not accepted him. They are civil in his presence, but in private they put him down. Their objections are: Gerald is more reserved than their father was, he takes up a lot of my time, that I'm "acting like a schoolgirl," and the sleepovers set a bad example for the grandkids. (They are not present when this occurs.)
I have told my daughters repeatedly how happy I am and how hurtful I find their comments. I refuse to listen to their negative comments, but they always come up. I don't want to alienate them and possibly have my time with my grandkids limited, but Gerald is going to be in my life for a while.
Any advice? -- GERALD'S "GIRL"
DEAR GERALD'S "GIRL": As an adult you have the right to live your life as you choose. Because you have already told your daughters their comments are hurtful, it's time to stand your ground more strongly.
Your grandchildren will not be shocked that Gerald is spending nights with you if their parents do not discuss it with them or in front of them. They'll be off doing their own thing as teenagers and, much as they love you, you will not be the focus of their attention.
If your daughters threaten to punish you by limiting your time with the grandkids, let it be their problem. But do not give in to the treatment they are giving you because it is unfair and uncalled-for.
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 $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)