DEAR ABBY: I took a DNA test seven months ago. It came back that the man who raised me is not my biological father. My heart dropped, but I decided to meet my real dad. We have formed a relationship, mostly a good one, and I introduce him as my dad now. My problem is, we hardly know each other or how we react to things.
I had a hard week. My older sister was very rude to me, I had many college exams to take, and my best friend unexpectedly announced she had to go away for six months. I just wanted to run “home,” but then I realized I no longer have a home to run to. My dad doesn’t know I’m very clingy when I’m upset, so he was oblivious to my constant communications, and I’m sure it came off as annoying.
My mother and I don’t get along these days because she hid this secret from me for 25 years. Also, I mostly just wanted to go over to his house because my three little siblings are there, and I actually feel like we’re a family. What do you think, Abby? AM I too clingy? Is it understandable? How do I explain to him that I need to see them more? If he tells me no, how do I handle that? — ADJUSTING IN OHIO
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DEAR ADJUSTING: If you want a better relationship with your biological father, slow down and let him get to know you gradually. A way to accomplish this would be to mend fences with your mother, believe it or not. Yes, she should have told you about your biological father years ago, but she may have had reasons for not doing so. One of them may have been embarrassment.
You ask, “Am I being too clingy?” The answer is yes. You stand a better chance of building a solid relationship with your bio-dad, his wife and your half-siblings if you don’t overwhelm them when you are feeling so needy. Your chances of finding the emotional support you need would be better if you talk with a counselor at the student health center at your college when you are as stressed as you are.
DEAR ABBY: My sister and I inherited our mother’s condo some years ago. She wants to sell it; I do not. She has harangued me nonstop with inane scenarios of what “could” happen with our heirs if we don’t sell, even going so far as to threaten, “If we don’t sell it now, I don’t think I will want to sell.” I don’t even know what that means.
Because I was fed up, I agreed to sell. The problem is, at this point, I don’t even like her. I’m not mad — I just abhor the way she harangued me. I don’t think I’ll ever want to talk to her again, and I feel sad about that. Any thoughts? — SIBLING DISASTER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SIBLING: It is unfortunate (but not uncommon) for money to drive a wedge between family members. When your sister started her harangue, you should have inserted your lawyer into the negotiation. Because you wished to keep the unit, you could have bought her half from her, you both with what you wanted leaving. If it’s not too late, give it some consideration. As to never wanting to talk to your sister, I hope with time your feelings will mellow and fences can be mended.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I got married during the pandemic in a short ceremony. Our first year of marriage has been less a honeymoon than a nightmare. He tends to be hotheaded. He fights dirty with name-calling, which he had occasionally done previously, but since we’ve been living together, it happens more often.
We are trying marriage counseling, but all of his temper tantrums and antics have made me see him in a different, negative light. He’s now talking about growing our family. He can be very sweet and thoughtful, but I don’t even know if I still like him at this point.
I’m also wondering if I’m just better alone because I like my space and time to myself. Maybe I’m settling with the current situation when there could be someone better out there. I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Is this something I need to give some time to see how it plays out, or should I end it, the sooner the better? — HONEYMOON-LESS IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR HONEYMOON-LESS: The pandemic has stressed many marriages, but with the quarantines relaxing there should be less pressure and confinement. Has it helped? Whether your hot-tempered husband is capable of changing his behavior is something that may be revealed during the counseling.
You didn’t mention how long the two of you have been seeing a therapist, but if it has been more than six months with no improvement, it’s fair to assume he isn’t likely to change, and the marriage should end. In the meantime, use the most powerful form of birth control you possibly can so you don’t find yourself pregnant and trapped in a marriage from which you cannot escape.
DEAR ABBY: My mom is in a home for dementia patients, and Dad was living in their big house by himself. He couldn’t sell it until everything was settled with my mom. Because he was very lonely, I decided to let him move in with me. We agreed he would pay $320 a month. I needed the money and thought it was fair. My roommate pays $400 a month, but I was OK with Dad paying less.
When my sister found out, she was very upset that I was charging Dad. She had him move out that day, so now he sleeps at my brother’s and spends most of the day at his house.
When I turned 18 and lived at home I paid rent, so I saw nothing wrong with it. Now I am an outcast. No one talks to me except my dad, by phone. I am very depressed about this and feel suicidal. I suffer from anxiety and depression, see a therapist and have been on meds for years. Am I wrong, and how do I fix this? — GOOD SON IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR GOOD SON: If you haven’t done so already, talk about this with your therapist. It is very important that he or she knows you are having suicidal thoughts and that they persist. You did NOTHING “wrong.” Your father agreed to the arrangement, and he should have made that clear to your sister. She was wrong to interfere, and she seems to wield a disproportionate amount of power in your family. I can’t fix that and neither can you, so you will have to find ways of coping not only with your depression but also with her. You have my sympathy.
DEAR ABBY: I am becoming more and more irritated with people. My fuse is short and I’m prone to bursts of anger. Today I watched another driver run a red light, and I proceeded to honk my horn, lower my window and give the guy my middle finger. (Yeah, I know it was risky, but I couldn’t resist the impulse.)
I am sick of people! They are, in my opinion, self-centered, inconsiderate jerks who need to be smacked. Stupid questions also set me off. I have been snapping at my wife and kids, which is not something I intend. What can I do to get a grip on my temper and not act out the way I have been doing? Is something wrong with me? — REALLY A NICE GUY IN MICHIGAN
DEAR NICE GUY: Anger is a normal emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time. But lowering one’s car window, playing the horn like a musical instrument and giving other drivers the finger is not only unwise, but dangerous. These days it could get you killed. For the record, a bad mood is not a valid excuse for taking it out on someone you think has asked a stupid question. If a query is sincere, no question is “stupid.”
Your loss of self-control — if recent — could be related to frustration or misdirected anger at something out of your control. Does experiencing these feelings mean there is something “wrong” with you? Not necessarily, as long as you find ways to manage your emotions before exploding. We are all human. We all make mistakes.
It takes self-control and maturity to react calmly instead of striking out in anger. Recognizing what is causing these negative emotions can go a long way to help you avoid taking them out on others. I sometimes wonder whether anger management should be added to school curriculums to help the next generation learn to communicate in a healthy manner, rather than simply reacting.
DEAR ABBY: My dear friend “Francine” loves male attention and flirts with men, married or unmarried, at parties and on other occasions. I don’t think flirting with married men is proper because it sends the wrong message. I also don’t think their wives appreciate her behavior. Am I off base? I would appreciate your input. — OLD-FASHIONED IN ARIZONA
DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: Your dear friend may do this not because she’s trying to break up a marriage, but because she needs validation and wants to reassure herself that she is attractive. If the wives find her behavior a threat, they can tell her that themselves, or exclude her from their gatherings.
PS Is it “proper”? No. Does it happen? Quite often.
DEAR ABBY: My brother divorced his first wife 10 years ago. Since then, he has married a wonderful woman my family adores. The problem is, my ex-sister-in-law insists on showing up for family events, which makes these celebrations extremely awkward. Even her children recognize how uncomfortable her presence makes everyone.
I don’t mind being the “bad guy” and telling her that she’s no longer welcome at family events, but I don’t want to cause an ugly scene. How can I diplomatically (but firmly) tell her to stay away? Any suggestions would be appreciated. — FLUMMOXED IN PHILADELPHIA
DEAR FLUMMOXED: What a sad situation. Your BROTHER, not you, should deliver the message to his ex, well before she shows up at your next family event. He should inform her that when she shows up uninvited, her presence makes everyone uncomfortable, and it would be best that she not impose again. You could lessen the hurt by occasionally seeing her separately, depending upon the circumstances of the divorce.
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 PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069