Dear Abby: I’m stressed out by how my stepmom controls my dad

She won’t let him have a cellphone, buy a car or visit his family.

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DEAR ABBY: My dad, who is nearing 80, has been married to my stepmom, “Ruth,” for nearly 35 years. She has always been temperamental and controlling to a degree, but during the last few years it has become abundantly clear that she’s emotionally abusive to my dad.

Twenty years ago, I moved to another coast, and although Dad wanted to visit, the decision was always up to Ruth, so they never did. However, when it comes to her immediate family, Dad is required to attend every event. During COVID I moved just a few states away, and that’s when I got the full picture. Ruth took away Dad’s cellphone and sold his car, so he is virtually stuck. She will not even let him mention purchasing a vehicle. He’s an artist, and she never “allowed” him to get a studio.

The list is long, sad and frustrating. He forbids me to confront her, but it is giving me daily stress because I love my dad and I fear her control is something he has grown accustomed to. Any advice? — DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN THE SOUTH

DEAR DAUGHTER: As repugnant as the situation may be to you, I do not think you should try to reduce your stress by creating more for your father. He has forbidden you from confronting his wife about her hypercontrolling behavior, and you should respect his wishes. I don’t have to like it; you don’t have to like it. But this is what your father has been willing to accept for the last 35 years. He and only he could have put a stop to it or left her if he had really wanted to.

DEAR ABBY: I’m a college student who broke up with my long-term high school boyfriend a few months ago. He was a cheating dirtbag, so I moved on quickly. I have been enjoying the single life, but now find myself in a bit of a love triangle.

”Derek” is blond and short, and loves to go to the gym. He’s kind and attentive, and he seems to care very much for me. He invited me to his formal dance, but I turned him down because I didn’t know him very well. He didn’t take anyone else even though he had plenty of time to find a date. My friend at the dance said he didn’t even talk to another girl, so I know he’s very loyal already.

The other contender, “Shay,” is taller and has dark hair. He has kind, blue eyes and a shy personality, although with me he really opens up and talks. He always checks in to see how I’m doing when I’ve had a rough day. In the simplest terms, he puts up with my nonsense. He has seen me at some of my worst moments and still showed compassion.

I’m genuinely torn between these two and don’t know how to choose because I don’t want to lose either of them. What do I do? — BOY CRAZY IN IOWA

DEAR BOY CRAZY: I have good news. Because nowhere in your letter did you mention that either of these young men have asked you for an exclusive relationship, you do not “have” to make a difficult choice. Some people like both chocolate AND vanilla ice cream. I suggest you be honest with them and enjoy seeing them both until the answer to your question becomes obvious. (Feel free to write me again if you meet a handsome redhead.)

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 order “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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