DEAR ABBY: I am a 39-year-old gay man in a three-year relationship with a wonderful man. We had both come out of very long and abusive relationships when we met. He works hard, and I stay home and take care of the house, the animals and the yard. There is no kind of abuse in our relationship.
The problem is that I am an alcoholic. He keeps telling me he can handle it as long as there is no abuse. I feel I'm taking advantage of him and that he deserves better than this, and I have told him so.
I have been in rehab several times and tried AA. Nothing worked. I always go back to drinking. Where do I go from here? I don't want to lose the love of my life, but it's killing me inside that he has to put up with my drinking problem.
- Needs help in Florida
DEAR NEEDS HELP: There IS abuse going on in your relationship - substance abuse. Until you finally decide that there is something more important than a drink, you will remain stuck in your addiction. And as long as your partner continues to accept and "handle it," he will be your enabler. Where you go from here is up to you, but getting counseling for your low self-esteem and going back to AA would be giant steps in the right direction.
DEAR ABBY: It seems that every other letter you print concerns a demanding relative (a parent, in-law, sibling, etc.). The writer always wants to know how to avoid unreasonable demands without causing "unpleasantness." May I say a word to these folks?
Be honest and admit that the relationship is ALREADY unpleasant. Demanding people are impossible to please. They know their control over you depends on temper tantrums and/or fits of sulking and tears. They'll pitch these fits regularly no matter how hard you try to please them.
When faced with an unreasonable demand, just say "no." Don't waste time giving reasons or trying to work out a compromise. You already know it won't do any good. Then hunker down and wait for the explosion, keeping in mind that the longer you have been a doormat, the more violent and bitter the reaction will be.
Above all, do not be drawn into a fight! Controlling people love to fight, and they are good at it. Your weapon should be polite withdrawal. Refuse meetings. Screen your calls. Ignore letters and emails unless they contain an apology and indicate a sincere desire for change. It may shock your domineering relatives into more reasonable behavior.
If not, you haven't lost a thing. You may even find that your life is less complicated without them. Draw the line and let your family know that future relationships will be based on love AND respect, or there will be no future relations. You won't regret it.
- Been there, done that, Knoxville, Tenn.
DEAR BEEN THERE: People who have spent a lifetime trying to please others may find your recommendations difficult to put into practice. Habits can become so entrenched that they are hard to break without coaching and positive reinforcement. That is why I advise those who feel constantly put upon to consider taking classes in assertiveness training.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Have a happy, healthy and safe Fourth of July, everyone!
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.