DEAR ABBY: I have no family and few friends -- nobody close. My live-in girlfriend of two years and I argue constantly. We no longer share a bedroom, and I feel more like a roommate. I honestly feel I'm being used for money. Her 24-year-old son died from an overdose two months ago, so I can't help but feel sorry for her. She isn't working, and I don't know when she can return.
I don't have the money to move. I wish I did. I'm miserable, she's miserable and I feel stuck. I'm 46; she's 44. I pay rent and 50% of the utilities, which is fine. But how can I ever get out? Moving isn't cheap anymore.
I'm desperate for hope that I'm not stuck here forever. I'm afraid if I move -- even if I live in a tent for now -- she will give up on everything. She has two grown kids, but she was closest to the one who passed. I feel guilty for wanting and needing to leave. At the same time, I'm miserable. She's in therapy and on medicine. Please advise.
-- Without Hope
in North Carolina
DEAR WITHOUT HOPE: Start saving whatever money you can and explore options for other living arrangements, including renting a single room. Staying where you are under these circumstances will make you sick if you don't take control of your life. Your former girlfriend is under the care of a doctor. You are NOT her lifeline. She will survive.
DEAR ABBY: I am friendly with a woman who is wonderful and caring. She calls to ask how I'm doing, drops off coffee to say hi, etc. She has a great heart and soul. Our boys are close in age. That's the problem -- I do not like her children.
Her kids are difficult and they run roughshod over her. She knows discipline is a problem, but she's at a loss. My children don't enjoy playing with them, either. Her kids are careless and don't listen to authority. I want to continue our friendship, but I like her better without the children in tow. Should I speak up or fade away?
-- Conditional Friend
DEAR FRIEND: Your friend's children can't be blamed for things they were never taught. Tell your friend that when her kids visit your home, you will be establishing some "house rules." If you do, you may be doing that entire family a favor. If her kids cannot comply, inform her that your children no longer want to play with hers and why. She needs that information before her kids become social outcasts. If your friendship with her fades after that, and I sincerely hope it won't, then que sera, sera.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO MY ASIAN READERS WHO CELEBRATE THE LUNAR NEW YEAR: The Year of the Rabbit begins today. In Chinese culture, the rabbit is known to be the luckiest of all 12 animals in the zodiac. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are calm and peaceful. They avoid fighting and arguing, are artistic and have good taste. However, they may be insecure and sensitive and dislike criticism, which causes them to be averse to change. I wish a happy, healthy new year to all who are celebrating this holiday.
-- Love, Abby
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.