Dear Abby: I’m staying in a toxic relationship because I dread being alone

Woman fears no one else would want to be with someone who used to abuse drugs and ruined her teeth.

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DEAR ABBY: I’m a 39-year-old woman in a toxic relationship with my boyfriend of almost seven years. We had a child together but lost custody due to drug use during my pregnancy. Even though we don’t have our son, and he treats me badly, I feel I have to stay with him because we have gone through so much together.

A couple of years ago, I got dentures because I ruined my teeth when I was using, and now I’m afraid no one will want to be with me because of them. So I’m stuck in a relationship that isn’t good for me. It’s embarrassing to have dentures at such a young age, and I don’t know how I will be able to meet someone who can see past them and my drug history so I can be in a healthy relationship that I deserve. I feel like my only choices are to stay stuck in this toxic relationship forever or end up alone. How do I move past my insecurities so I can be happy for once? — EMBARRASSED IN ARIZONA

DEAR EMBARRASSED: You have successfully battled drug addiction, so you are clearly not unused to “challenges.” I applaud you for what you have accomplished, and others should respect you for it, too.

Please do not allow your fear of being alone to prevent you from taking another important step in reclaiming your life. You and I both know your abuser is not healthy for you. You have already invested too much time in him. If you rely on him for financial support, find a job. Make arrangements with friends or family so you can eventually save enough to live independently.

After you have left him, being alone does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. In your case it could be therapeutic. And once you are financially stable, consult a dentist or a school of dentistry about what options you might have besides dentures. The only thing holding you back at this point is yourself.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 37-year-old mother of three, ages 13, 5 and 3. I’m married and own my home. I am a new stay-at-home mom after having worked for 16 years at my last job. My kids are happy and healthy.

Any time I go to my parents’ house or they drop in on me for a quick visit, they have to “point out” that it is a mess or that my oldest is wearing jeans with holes in them. There’s always a negative comment, never a positive one. My oldest has started to notice. It makes it hard to spend time with my parents since the visit is never a happy one without nitpicking. I’m wondering if I can say anything, and what to say.

I can’t even cut or color my hair without ridicule. My oldest got her nails done and there was a negative comment about that as well. A few years ago, there was a blowout between my mom and me over my son’s haircut. I’m at the point where I no longer want to go to their house, but I don’t want to keep my kids from them. — ANNOYED IN IDAHO

DEAR ANNOYED: Say something like this to your parents: “I have noticed, and the children have started noticing, that when you visit you usually have something negative to say about me, my home and even them. It is hurtful and I want it stopped, because if it persists you won’t be invited.” And if it does continue, please remember it is your right as your children’s mother to buffer them from comments from their grandparents that make them self-conscious about their appearance.

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.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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