Daughter’s bratty behavior drives her mother to tears

DEAR ABBY: I recently traveled to Germany to help my 19-year-old daughter settle in for her semester of study abroad. I was in tears the entire trip home, not because I was sad to leave her, but because she kept lashing out at me for anything from using a cotton swab to following proper directions exiting the train, to asking simple — but, in her mind, ridiculous — questions. This is not new behavior. Her brother has also observed her overreactive behavior to minor things.

I treated her and her roommate to dinners out and stocked her apartment with groceries, in addition to making significant financial contributions toward her tuition. I’m also splitting the cost of her monthly rent with her dad.

I feel hurt, like she regards me as only an ATM. She wouldn’t even let me use her European electrical adapter to charge my phone before leaving for the airport.

Should I convey how hurt I feel and, if so, what are your suggestions? I feel if I have a phone conversation, she will sigh, tell me she doesn’t have time for this or accuse me of being a killjoy. If I put it in a letter, I’ll feel like a coward, but it will allow me to express my feelings without interruption or protest. — UNAPPRECIATED IN VERMONT

DEAR UNAPPRECIATED: Frankly, I’m surprised you weren’t crying because you recognized your part in creating the self-entitled monster your daughter has become. You should have put a stop to it when she first started “overreacting” with rude, insensitive and ungrateful behavior.

By all means write her a letter, and when you do, tell her she behaved shamefully, it was hurtful, and that you will no longer tolerate it. Be sure she understands she will not get another penny until you receive an apology and assurances that you won’t be subjected to that kind of abuse again. Continue practicing tough love until you see real changes in your daughter’s attitude. It’s the only kind of language she will understand.

DEAR ABBY: After 23 years together, my wife, after spending time with her grown children, brought home photos of her deceased former husband. The photos that bother me are the ones in which they are holding hands. He was the stepfather to her now-middle-aged children. They had 19 years together, and he had a daughter who became my wife’s stepdaughter.

The stepdaughter posted on social media that she missed her dad. My wife expressed the same feelings and said she thinks about him, too. When my wife posted those sentiments on the internet, everyone could read it. Those pictures and feelings bother me. Am I wrong for being angry about this? — UPSET IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UPSET: It’s time to grow up and accept that your wife was married — I presume happily — before her former husband’s death. If you want a healthy marriage, stop competing with a dead man. For her to express solidarity with her former stepdaughter was no reflection on her love for or her marriage to you. Your feelings are not all that unusual, but you are wrong to be angry. If you need reassurance, ask your wife for it, and I’m sure she’ll give it to you. Because she once loved another man doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.

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DEAR ABBY: I am in a long-distance relationship. I live in Kansas; he’s in Michigan. Because we are 720 miles apart, phone calls, text messages and Skype are vital to the health of our relationship. I make it a priority to text or call “Good morning” or “Goodnight.” Unlike me, sometimes he’s consistent and sometimes not, especially on weekends. He says he falls asleep, but it continues to happen, and I’m getting tired and frustrated about not being a priority.

I have been as patient and nice as I can be, as well as continuing to tell him how much I love him and want our relationship to work. I would love to hear your advice. — FAITHFUL BUT FRUSTRATED GIRLFRIEND

DEAR GIRLFRIEND: I know you love this man, but take a step back. You may be smothering him. Stop doing all the work in maintaining the romance and give him some space. If you do, he may realize he needs to step up and devote more energy to your relationship. Communication has to be voluntary, not mandatory. If you continue to pursue him the way you have been, you won’t draw him closer; you will drive him further away.

DEAR ABBY: My father is nearing the end of his life. I’m an only child with no family nearby. When my mother passed away, many people reached out to me, and I know their intent was to comfort me. However, most of the time I ended up comforting them! I would try to escape by saying things like I had a task to take care of, but when people are crying hysterically on the phone or in my kitchen, they don’t seem to hear. How can I politely tell people like this that I’m not their therapist, and they are not comforting me? — TAKING CARE OF DAD

DEAR TAKING CARE: All you need to say is you can’t talk right now, and you will call them back later. Period. Then hang up. If someone is having an emotional meltdown in your kitchen, you have the right to tell the person you can’t deal with it right now, you’ll visit with her — or him — “another time,” and guide them to the door.

DEAR ABBY: I am a man who has read your column for more than 40 years and have often thought your advice is reasonable, although not always exactly what I would have advised. Now that I’m retired, I find myself composing little “Dear Abby” conversations in my mind as I go through the day and meet small challenges or hear about them from acquaintances. You know what I mean — what should Tom do about his abusive daughter, how should I address the neighbors’ habit of feeding the deer and squirrels, or what should I do with this latest bit of gossip? I literally ask you for guidance, then argue with the advice I think you would give — sometimes out loud. Is this a sign of creeping insanity or something worse? — BLABBERING IN MISSOULA

DEAR BLABBERING: It isn’t a sign of creeping insanity. It’s a sign that you may need another woman in your life besides Dear Abby.

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DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who’s 22 and has two children, which I helped her to deliver. She is also my neighbor. Since she moved in and divorced her husband, my husband and I have watched her make bad choices over and over again, starting with the derelict men she dates to the way she gets drunk, then drives her paper route at night. She blows her money on tattoos and then asks us for food. It’s become exhausting.

She’s now dating another man who’s obviously using her. I have a hard time not telling him off when I see him. He won’t get a job and he keeps her in perpetual relationship limbo, which forces her to focus all her attention on him and neglect her children and home.

What can I do? I value her so much I lose sleep. She constantly posts on social media that she’s lonely and everyone always leaves her, but she gets mad at me for telling her where she keeps going wrong. Why can’t she understand that she’s doing this to herself? How can I help her see her errors, so she can move on from this awful phase? — CARING FRIEND IN FLORIDA

DEAR CARING FRIEND: Your friend has a job. If she weren’t supporting her boyfriend, she would be able to support herself and her children. The more you give her, the more reliant she will become on your handouts.

Take it from a professional: The most unwelcome advice is that which is unasked for, which is why she gets angry when you try to tell her what she’s doing wrong. She doesn’t want to hear it. The way to get someone like this to recognize her “errors” is to stop trying to save her from them.

You can’t fix what’s wrong in her life — only she can do that — so step back. If you really think her children are going hungry, contact child protective services, so those kids can get the help they need.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.