Dear Ann: I have been married for 28 miserable years to a controlling, manipulative man. "Ned" has had several affairs, ran up thousands of dollars in debt and changed jobs six times, which forced us to move repeatedly. I stayed with him because I adored his parents and wanted to help take care of them. My family and friends think Ned is a saint, and I have never told them otherwise. I figured once his parents passed on, I would leave him.
Well, Ann, both his parents are gone now, but I am stuck. Five years ago, Ned was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease. He is unable to work and is home 24 hours a day. The prognosis is that he can live for several years and will become increasingly disabled. Of course, I will have to take care of him. I am a cancer survivor myself, and I am afraid that staying with this man will wear me out and increase my chances of recurrence.
I want to leave Ned, but everyone will think I am deserting a sick man, and I couldn't bear the shame. Do I have to give up the next 28 years of my life because I married the wrong man? Please advise me. Torn in Connecticut
Dear Conn.: A great deal depends on your financial flexibility. If you leave Ned, can you engage a competent person to move in and take care of him? You don't say whether you have children. If so, could they help? Either way, you should hire enough help to get away from him as often as possible.
Your predicament should be carefully read by women who are in miserable marriages. Consider getting out while you can.
Dear Ann: My elderly neighbor is on a restricted budget and often gets canned goods from a local food bank. Several times a week, she drops by my house and leaves canned goods on my doorstep.
I have told this woman as politely as possible that I do not need any groceries and I don't want to take anything from her. She ignores my wishes and insists that I accept her "charity."
"Mrs. M" has no family that I know of, and the other neighbors ignore her. I wish she would keep the food for herself. I'm sure she cannot afford to be so generous. Is there any way I can get her to stop this humiliating practice? Los Angeles
Dear L.A.: Obviously, Mrs. M is mentally ill. There is no way you can put an end to her "generosity," so stop trying. Thank the woman graciously, and take her offerings to a food bank or a homeless shelter.
Dear Ann: I come from a large family, and the family home was left to me when my parents died. My daughter is living there now, and she maintains the home out of her own pocket.
Here's the problem, Ann: Whenever my siblings come to town, they assume their families can stay at my daughter's home because it belonged to our parents. It's a small house with only one bathroom. When there are five or six people in that house, it becomes nerve-wracking.
How can my daughter say "no" to family members without appearing mean-spirited and inhospitable? Her Mom in Maryland
Dear Maryland: Those "family members" should realize the house no longer belongs to their parents and is not a hotel. Your daughter should stiffen her spine, keep a smile on her face and say, "Sorry, the place is too small for guests. There's a good hotel not far away. I'll make reservations for you."