Dear Abby: Emotionally abusive husband is controlling … even after divorce

DEAR ABBY: I was married for almost 20 years to a jealous, controlling man. “Pete” was emotionally abusive, which I didn’t really notice because I’m not confrontational. I would just try to make him happy and ignore his controlling behavior. Toward the end of our marriage, I realized how isolated I had become. I had pushed most of my friends and family away. They didn’t want to visit because of Pete’s negative attitude.

Our daughter developed an illness in her teens that requires 24-hour care. Her illness didn’t necessarily upset him; what did upset him is the attention she would require in the future. He would say things like, “She’s ruining our retirement. I was looking forward to having you to myself and not having to deal with anyone.” This was when I realized how controlling he was. It felt like I had been wearing a blindfold and then I could finally see. I immediately filed for divorce.

A year afterward, I started seeing an old friend I’ll call “Darren,” someone my husband had often accused me of cheating with. (He did that with any man I knew.) I really like Darren and can see a future with him. He treats my daughter great and doesn’t mind that when we go out she has to tag along.

Pete is now saying that if I date Darren, it’s proof that I cheated on him. I don’t want my ex to think for a minute that our marriage ended because I cheated, because it’s not true. So I broke up with Darren because I refuse to accept him being labeled as the person who broke up my marriage. What would you do? — KEEPING THE STORY STRAIGHT

DEAR KEEPING: What would I do? I would, once and for all, quit allowing my ex to control me! I’d call Darren and talk with him about why I ended the relationship and ask if he would consider resuming where the two of us left off. If he is willing, I would move forward. However, if he isn’t, I’d find a licensed psychotherapist who could give me the tools to avoid my ex’s manipulations in the future.


DEAR ABBY: My partner and I have a wonderful relationship, but there is one area of ​​contention we don’t know how to solve. I like a firm mattress. She likes a soft mattress. We bought an adjustable bed, so each of us could fine-tune the settings to our desired comfort level.

It has been a month now, and I hate the new mattress. I just cannot get comfortable. It’s so bad I find myself sleeping in another room just to catch a good night’s rest. As you can imagine, sleeping apart causes anxiety between us, and it has been confusing and stressful for our animals. How do you propose we solve this in a way that restores peace in our relationship? — YAWNING IN ARIZONA

DEAR YAWNING: Pay a visit to the store from which you purchased that adjustable bed and find out if you need a lesson or two on how to operate the mattress correctly. (You won’t be the first, trust me on that.) If your discomfort persists, sell the bed and replace it with two twin- or queen-sized mattresses so you and your partner can at least share the same room.

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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 PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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