Dear Abby: Nightmare of a stepmom is impossible to deal with

DEAR ABBY: I’m having a problem with my husband’s judgmental and narcissistic stepmom. She wasn’t nice to him or his siblings while they were growing up.

My hubby recently had a heart attack. After I called to tell his dad and emailed his siblings, she got very upset with me because I didn’t give her the details first so she could disseminate the information. She also demanded to visit immediately after his surgery and got nasty with me on the phone when I told her she couldn’t come in with Dad because the hospital allowed only two visitors at a time. Now she won’t speak to me or answer emails.

This isn’t the first time she has done this. She always looks for the worst and gives no grace. You can’t discuss anything with her because she gaslights and takes no responsibility. This affects my husband’s relationship with his elderly father, whom she poisons with her vitriol, especially regarding his children by his first wife. She does this with the entire family. She even sends nasty emails to her own children. I’m exhausted from all her drama. What do I do? — EXHAUSTED IN KENTUCKY

DEAR EXHAUSTED: Don’t you think it’s time to disengage with this unpleasant, controlling woman? If she won’t speak with you or answer your emails, thank your higher power and concentrate on the rest of the family. If they’re experiencing the same treatment you are, they, too, may be glad to focus on relationships they find rewarding and let her continue to isolate herself.

You cannot fix what’s wrong with her, and it may be too late to help your father-in-law, who has tolerated this for years. If another relative can give him important information about your husband, let that person get the message to him if you can’t get past his nightmare of a wife.

DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing a man I’ll call “Ken” for six months. We are both widowed. It has been two years for him and three for me. My husband was my childhood sweetheart, and I cherished the ground he walked on. We treated each other like royalty. Ken is a wonderful man who treats me like a queen.

Neither of us wants to live together. I never ask him for anything, but he buys gifts for me and surprises me with them. I love his taste. The problem is, he’s falling for me faster than I am for him. He has told me he loves me, but I just can’t say it back. I don’t know what’s keeping me from doing it. Maybe I’m still mourning my husband. What is wrong with me? — PERPLEXED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR PERPLEXED: Nothing is “wrong” with you. Yes, you may still be mourning the loss of your husband and the life you had together. In fact, it may continue to some degree for the rest of your life. Ken sounds like a wonderful man, but after only six months, you two are still getting to know each other. “I love you” implies a commitment you aren’t ready to make. Stop second-guessing yourself and let this relationship play out in its own time.

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

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