Dear Abby: As I grew up, dad always made me feel undeserving

Father’s harsh words created a sense of worthlessness that has continued into adulthood.

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DEAR ABBY: When I was a child, my dad told me, “If it weren’t for you kids, there are so many things your mother and I could have.” What I remember most was the intensity in his voice.

When I was old enough to work, I had a job after school so I could pay for my own clothes although my family wasn’t poor. My father repeatedly let me know I was “lucky” I didn’t get taken out of school to help support the family. When I graduated from high school at 17, I immediately went to work, and I paid for my board.

I married at 18 to get out of the house and paid for my own wedding. It never even occurred to me to ask for help. When I ended up divorced, I worked my way through college. When I graduated, my mother had to make my father go to my graduation because he didn’t want to.

I have never been able to shake the feeling that I don’t have a right to anything, and I’m not good enough. My other siblings are a mess, too. How do I shake this feeling of not being worthy? — WORTHLESS IN FLORIDA

DEAR WORTHLESS: Children develop their feelings of self-worth from their parents. It appears at least one of yours was missing in action from the time you were little.

I don’t have a magic wand, and I can’t make the negative message your father implanted in your head disappear. On the upside, your upbringing made you independent, if only out of necessity. It may take help from a licensed mental health professional to make the scars from the way your father raised you fade.

DEAR ABBY: My wife, “Cynthia,” and I are a middle-aged couple who have been married four years. Shortly after our wedding, she suffered a stroke during a heart transplant. After she returned home from the hospital, a “friend” told her I was having an affair (I wasn’t). Without telling me why, Cynthia threw me out of the house and returned to a distant state to be near her family. She had most of her belongings shipped there.

After I presented proof of my innocence a year later, we reconciled. The first couple of years of marriage were chaotic, and I know I wasn’t perfect. But I did the best I could and stood by her throughout the medical ordeal.

Now, Cynthia is saying I should have to pay to have her items shipped back simply because I’m “the man.” Abby, we have roughly the same income due to pensions. We have always kept our finances separate. I think she should pay to have her own items returned because she is the one who shipped them over there based on a lie. The money itself isn’t the issue; it’s the principle. I feel like this is a slap in the face. What do you think? — MR. NICE GUY

DEAR MR. NICE GUY: You shouldn’t have to pay for anything “because you’re the man.” You didn’t cheat, and you aren’t responsible for the fact that Cynthia overreacted and ran away the way she did.

You say that until now you have kept your finances separate because you each have your own incomes. My advice is to refuse to be manipulated. Your wife should pay to have her belongings returned, just as she paid to have them sent away without verifying whether the story was true.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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