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Dear Abby: Wife reflects on long marriage to alcoholic

by Abigail Van Buren | May 12, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

Dear Abby: I have been married for 39 years to a kind, supportive and loving man. We are both retired. He stays fit with daily exercise, reads, keeps track of our financials and is fun to be with. However, he’s a high-functioning alcoholic. His personality bends to unsavory during the evening hours. He won’t get counseling, and support groups for me aren’t close by.

He has always provided a good income for our family. He was also a good father to our two sons. (I suspect that our 34-year-old son may also be an alcoholic.) Over the years, I have gone from compassionate to furious about my husband’s drinking. He often hides how much he consumes. I never know if it’s just the two to three nightly beers or the hidden bottle of wine or whiskey in the trash. I recently discovered he also has been smoking pot.

I used to be a social person. We have the opportunity to travel, but it was disastrous in the past. How should a wife deal with an alcoholic? — Overwhelmed In Florida

Dear Overwhelmed: You can’t fix your husband. Only he can do that if he’s motivated. A spouse like you should join a support group for the families of alcoholics. If one isn’t geographically convenient, understand that meetings are also offered online and can provide help.

Consider asserting independence and stop allowing your husband’s problem to isolate you. Pursue your own interests. Because you would like to travel, join a group and go without him. It could provide a break from the stress you are experiencing.

At some point you will have to decide whether you are willing to spend the rest of your life avoiding the nastiness of a belligerent drunk every evening. If not, you can talk to a lawyer about a separation. But that may be a discussion for another day.

Dear Abby: I had a very good relationship with my daughter-in-law. In fact, I treated her like my own daughter and showered her with gifts. People told me shes gossiping about me and saying how much she dislikes me. I feel betrayed, so I have distanced myself from her.

Am I a vindictive mother-in-law? I love my grandson, but I need my privacy, too. What will I do during holidays when family needs to get together? I no longer trust her, and I cannot wear a fake smile. Am I overreacting? — Disillusioned In The West

Dear Disillusioned: If what you were told about your daughter-in-law is true, you are not overreacting. But, you won’t know if the information is accurate or in what context something may have been said until you have been told by her. You need to have a face-to-face conversation in which you ask if what you heard was true and if you have done something that upset her. Then listen.

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 P.O.Box 69440,Los Angeles,CA 90069 or visit


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