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by Abigail Van Buren

Long-Ago Divorce Remains Source of Constant Criticism

DEAR ABBY: I desperately need to learn how to cope with caring for my mother, who is living with me. We get along most days, however she is very much a "Negative Nancy" on all topics, especially my life.

I have been divorced for more than 10 years, but she digs about my ex and his new wife as often as possible. I have asked her repeatedly to stop, but she flat-out refuses because "he left me in financial ruin."

Yes, my ex is more financially stable today than when we were married, but I am neither desolate nor destitute. She makes me feel like no matter what I do for her it's not enough, and before you suggest it, our only option is to live together. Please help salvage my emotional state. -- CHALLENGED IN TEXAS

DEAR CHALLENGED: For the sake of your sanity, you will have to learn to change the way you react to Mommy Dearest, who can't let go of her grudge or resist stirring the pot. Do you think she does it because she enjoys needling you? Is she bored and has nothing better to talk about?

When she makes negative comments about your ex, don't take the bait. Ignore her, leave the room or counter by saying something positive about him. (I hope you can come up with some good material.) And when she complains that you don't do enough for her, start doing less, which may make you feel less taken for granted.

Understand that you may never please her, and when the quarantine ends, encourage her to spend time at a senior center, volunteering "to help others less fortunate," or some other activity that will get her out of your house. You should also spend less time with her when you need to.

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