DEAR ABBY: I have been in love with "Richard" for 14 years. We broke up after we dated for a while because my alcoholic mother kept interfering. She kept telling me how "bad" he was for me -- and I, thinking my mother had my best interests at heart, believed her.
After a divorce on my part and a breakup on his, we are now in a long-distance relationship. We hope to make our relationship permanent after getting to know each other again.
My problem is, when Richard is unhappy or upset with someone else, he takes it out on me. It doesn't seem to matter what happened, he'll pick a fight over something inconsequential. It drives me crazy.
I know what he's doing; I just don't know how to stop it. The latest flare-up involved the fact that his dog was missing, so he picked a fight with me because I "always tell him how nice the weather is where I live."
He refuses to get counseling. What do I do? -- PULLING MY HAIR OUT
DEAR PULLING: Your problem isn't that Richard uses you as a scapegoat for his frustrations; it's that you tolerate it. It's possible that because of your mother's alcoholism and the unpredictable behavior you were subjected to during your formative years, you have accepted Richard's behavior.
Because he refuses counseling, you should get some. What he's doing is not acceptable. It is emotional abuse. From my perspective, the healthiest thing you could do for yourself besides break up with Richard would be to keep the romance long-distance.