DEAR ABBY: I was married for almost 20 years to a jealous, controlling man. "Pete" was emotionally abusive, which I didn't really notice because I'm not confrontational. I would just try to make him happy and ignore his controlling behavior. Toward the end of our marriage, I realized how isolated I had become. I had pushed most of my friends and family away. They didn't want to visit because of Pete's negative attitude.
Our daughter developed an illness in her teens that requires 24-hour care. Her illness didn't necessarily upset him; what did upset him is the attention she would require in the future. He would say things like, "She's ruining our retirement. I was looking forward to having you to myself and not having to deal with anyone." This was when I realized how controlling he was. It felt like I had been wearing a blindfold and then I could finally see. I immediately filed for divorce.
A year afterward, I started seeing an old friend I'll call "Darren," someone my husband had often accused me of cheating with. (He did that with any man I knew.) I really like Darren and can see a future with him. He treats my daughter great and doesn't mind that when we go out she has to tag along.
Pete is now saying that if I date Darren, it's proof that I cheated on him. I don't want my ex to think for a minute that our marriage ended because I cheated, because it's not true. So I broke up with Darren because I refuse to accept him being labeled as the person who broke up my marriage. What would you do? -- KEEPING THE STORY STRAIGHT
DEAR KEEPING: What would I do? I would, once and for all, quit allowing my ex to control me! I'd call Darren and talk with him about why I ended the relationship and ask if he would consider resuming where the two of us left off. If he is willing, I would move forward. However, if he isn't, I'd find a licensed psychotherapist who could give me the tools to avoid my ex's manipulations in the future.