Dear Abby: Mom vows to skip holiday gatherings if my dad is there

She remains bitter more than a decade after their divorce.

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DEAR ABBY: My parents were married for 22 years. They separated in 2007, and by 2008 the divorce was final. While this was a good thing for both of them, the fallout from their marriage was intense. I won’t dig into the ugly details, but they both had their faults, and it was rough.

Since the divorce, Dad has moved on. Sadly, he lost his wife of 13 years suddenly several months ago. Mom still blames Dad for every bad thing that has happened to her since the divorce, even though she chose to quit her job and go on disability, which severely limited her income and options. When Dad’s wife died, Mom was almost happy. She said she knew that same grief because of what she went through with the divorce. (It’s NOT the same thing.)

I would like to invite Dad to holiday gatherings with the family this year, as he will be alone most of the time, but Mom refuses to come if he is there. How can I help her move on? — INCLUSIVE IN MICHIGAN

DEAR INCLUSIVE: Remember the adage, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? All these years, your mother has nursed her anger as though it was an infant. The only person who can help her “move on” is herself, which she is clearly unwilling to do.

Ask your father how he would feel about joining the family during the coming holidays. You may find that he would prefer to avoid her and socialize with friends he and his wife cultivated during their marriage. But please do not allow your mother to dictate whom you can or cannot entertain in your home. If she wishes to stay away, that will be her privilege and her punishment.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is hard of hearing. No matter what I ask of him or when we have a conversation, he denies I ever spoke to him, asked him to do anything, etc. When I suggest that he may have a hearing problem and should see a doctor, he becomes angry, belligerent and denies there’s anything wrong with him.

Our marriage has turned into one big fight. I have asked him to say, “I didn’t hear you. Could you repeat that?” when he doesn’t hear me, but that hasn’t worked. He still flat-out denies that I said anything to him. If I don’t hear him clearly, I ask him to repeat what I didn’t hear. How can I convince him that he needs a hearing aid before these fights end our marriage? — ON DEAF EARS IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR O.D.E.: This is a problem you both should discuss with your husband’s doctor, preferably before his next physical. Sadly, his denial is shared by many who equate hearing loss with something to be embarrassed about. I can suggest a “Band-Aid” in the meantime, but without intervention, your husband’s problem will progress, and he will find himself increasingly socially isolated. For now, if you want his attention, TOUCH HIS ARM OR SHOULDER before asking him a question. That way he will have to pay attention.

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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