Dear Annie: I'm dating a divorced man with five children, two of whom still live with their parents in a shared-custody arrangement. The divorce was very bitter, and she put him into bankruptcy. She is a spendaholic and not a pleasant person to be around, always making herself the wronged party.
We put up with her at all functions that include the kids — school sports, birthdays and things like that. But now she insists on inviting herself to functions with my boyfriend's extended family.
When is it appropriate to tell her, "Stop inviting yourself. You are divorced from this family"? After all, my boyfriend is never invited to her family functions. Neither of us wants her at these events, but my boyfriend is afraid that if he says anything to her, it will hurt the kids.
I am so tired of all her involvement. How can we bond with his family as a couple if she's always there? I'm having a hard time with this. I think he needs to tell her to knock it off. They are divorced. That means they are no longer a couple. She has her own boyfriend, by the way, although she doesn't do much with him. — B.H.
Dear B.H.: We caution you not to make demands on your boyfriend, because it puts you between him and his children, which is not a good place to be. Instead, discuss the situation calmly. If he is determined to allow his ex to attend family functions (and his family doesn't throw her out), let it be. At some point, those children will be out of the house, and he will worry less about how this affects them. Your decision is how long you are willing to graciously tolerate this situation.
Dear Annie: Please explain the difference between a woman who is the victim of verbal abuse and one whose behavior is so annoying that her husband can't help criticizing her.
My husband has been yelling at me and putting me down for 50 years, but when he's not angry, he can be quite loving. He says the proof that his bad moods are my fault is that he isn't angry when I'm not around. I tell him that my friends and family never pick on me, and he says that's because they're as nutty as I am.
I've always believed I could control the way my husband treats me if I just tried harder, but as soon as I open my mouth, he's on my case. If I remain silent, he accuses me of pouting. I feel as if I can't win, no matter what I do. I want to change, but don't know how. — Tired of Being the Whipping Girl
Dear Tired: The signs of verbal abuse include: a spouse who calls you names; who is critical, sarcastic or mocking in an effort to humiliate or embarrass you; who yells or swears at you; who uses threats to intimidate you; who blames you for his behavior; who dismisses your feelings. From your letter, we easily see three or four of those signs. We don't know what you want to do about this after 50 years, but we strongly recommend counseling — for you, if not for both of you together. You've put up with this abuse much too long.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "N.D. Rose," the 73-year-old who thought learning new computer skills was too difficult. Next month, I will be 89 years old, and if I didn't have my computer, I'd be lost. There is only so much knitting one can do.
I use email, place online orders, do most of my banking and bill paying, watch some streaming programs, plus spend a few minutes a day on Facebook keeping in touch with friends from as far back as grade school. — Never Too Old To Learn
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2013. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.