Editor's Note: Hundreds of Ann Landers' loyal readers have requested that newspapers continue to publish her columns. These letters originally appeared in 1999.
Dear Ann Landers: My husband and I have been married for 12 years and are unable to have children. A year ago, my niece, "Nicole," became pregnant by her boyfriend, who then left her. She was 18. He was 20.
When her boyfriend walked out, my husband and I offered to adopt the baby. Nicole said she wanted to put the experience behind her and agreed to the adoption. The papers were signed. We live in another city, so we invited Nicole to move in with us until the baby was born. I accompanied her to the obstetrician during her pregnancy, and my husband and I were with her when she gave birth to her son.
Two days ago, Nicole's mother (my sister) called to say Nicole wants the baby back. It seems she and the ex-boyfriend have settled their differences and are going to be married. My sister matter-of-factly described the previous breakup as a "misunderstanding" and said the kids want to raise their son.
Ann, there are no words to describe how we feel. We want to retain custody of our son, but we don't want to put him through a long and protracted custody battle. Do you have any advice? We are — Living a Nightmare in New York State
Dear N.Y.: Check with a lawyer, and learn what your chances are of winning custody. If it is likely that you will lose the child, give him up willingly and avoid an ugly court fight that could drag on for years and create wounds that may never heal. I wish you luck.
Dear Ann Landers: My husband and I have been married for 18 years. We have two fine children. Five years ago, my husband had an affair. I was devastated when I learned about it, but I did forgive him. He promised never to see the woman again, and he has kept his word.
Here's the problem, Ann. The woman has kept in close touch with my in-laws for the past five years. My mother-in-law is well aware that this is very upsetting to me, but she continues to be friendly to the would-be home wrecker. Even my husband has asked his mother to stop seeing the woman, but she continues to be chummy. We moved from Florida partly to get away from this unpleasant situation, and believe it or not, this woman had the gall to move to this same small town.
My nerves are completely shot, and I am beginning to develop health problems over this. Can you help me? — Hurt in Alabama
Dear Alabama: You cannot do anything about that woman, but you can do something about yourself. Get some counseling at once. I've often said, "Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission," and the same goes for "torturing." You must put on an emotional raincoat and let whatever comes your way slide off.
As for your mother-in-law, you have no right to dictate to her who she should socialize with, so again, dear, put on that raincoat. Meanwhile, your doctor can give you something to settle your nerves.
Dear Ann Landers: My best friend is slitting her wrists. I know she doesn't want to end her life, but whenever she has a bad day at school or problems at home, she cuts herself. The last time she did this, I threatened to tell her parents, but she pleaded with me to keep quiet and promised she would never do it again.
We are both 14. She is my best friend, and I want her to be happy and healthy. What can I do to help her? — Just Me in Philadelphia
Dear Philadelphia: You must insist that your friend get some counseling at once. She should see the school nurse, the family doctor or her favorite teacher. Self-mutilation is a serious problem and requires immediate attention. Don't delay, and don't let her talk you out of it.
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ANN LANDERS (R)