Dear Abby: If she accepts aunt’s help, woman might irritate her mother

Though the woman is struggling with illness and debt, support for her is complicated by her mother’s angry attitude.

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DEAR ABBY: I’m unsure about how to proceed with my niece. She is struggling with child-rearing and debt.

Twenty-five years ago, when she was 16, my sister “Nan” and her husband threw her out on the street. I took her in for two years. Until she graduated from high school, she lived with me and my two daughters. She reconciled with my sister at the time of her graduation. After that I backed off, trying to let Nan perform her role as mom.

I have had a bumpy road with my sister since then, but until a year ago, we were doing OK. Now Nan has declared all-out war on me, and nothing I do or say seems to make any difference. I think her issues are political, but she refuses to discuss them, so I can’t be sure.

I have backed off from mothering my niece for many years. But she clearly needs some family support and guidance, which I am able to offer so she can get back on her feet. She’s a wonderful woman who is raising two lovely children, but a serious illness is preventing her from providing long-term security for herself or her kids.

I no longer feel obligated to stay at arm’s length from her, but am I wrong? Nan will view any support for her daughter as interference in her family, and I don’t want to cause problems with their relationship. I no longer care about my relationship with my sister, which seems irreparable, but I don’t want to put my niece in an awkward position. She truly needs the help that I am prepared to give. Any advice on what I should do? — LOVING AUNTIE

DEAR AUNTIE: Your niece is fortunate to have such a caring aunt. You saved her life. Offer the help she needs; it’s the right thing to do. If she’s afraid it will damage her relationship with her mother, she is free to refuse it.

As to your relationship with your possibly unstable sister, defend yourself as much as possible from her attacks, keep your distance and do not attempt to heal your fractured family because you cannot fix what’s wrong with her.

DEAR ABBY: Please do not publish my name or city. I’m a senior male in a six-year, happy relationship with a wonderful, understanding lady. But after decades of exploration and study, I have come to accept that I am nonbinary and/or gender fluid. My sexual expression — and orientation — shifts back and forth over time. This is far more than simply wearing ladies’ underwear or craving sex with men.

I live in an extremely conservative, mid-sized city, where there is practically no acceptance of gays or lesbians, and intersex people are unheard of. There are no knowledgeable doctors, counselors or support groups anywhere nearby. It would be so comforting to find someone like myself to share these feelings with. Is it even possible? — UNCOMFORTABLY QUIET IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR QUIET: Have you searched online for the wealth of information on sexuality and gender identity? PFLAG, the excellent organization I have mentioned in my column before, has a chapter in your city, which has for many years provided support and information to LGBTQ individuals and their families. It will also guide you to other resources nearby. Please go to and search on your geographical area. Trust me, if you do, you’ll be glad you did.

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.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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