Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Putting a Price on Sanity

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: I graduated from college last year. I have a modest paying job in my hometown and can afford rent. But since I am trying to save money for graduate school, I moved back in with my parents. My folks agreed. They are quite frugal and would be disappointed if I chose to spend the extra money on rent.

I have a solid relationship with my parents and actually enjoy spending time with them. The problem is, they have had a rocky marriage for as long as I can remember. They both struggle with alcoholism, and I suspect Dad (and maybe Mom) has gone through periods of depression. The house is far from town, and they run their businesses from home, so they rarely leave the premises. As a result, they fight constantly.

I hear them yelling no matter where I am. I often find myself holed up in my bedroom skipping meals because I don't want to be in the middle of whatever argument they are having. I have spoken to them about the strain this puts on me.

Even though they acknowledge that it is not the best situation, they also say they don't know how to fix it. After multiple bouts of counseling, as a couple and independently, they have given up.

Annie, I am not trying to interfere with their marriage. They have made the decision to stick it out. But I need to protect my own sanity and still save enough money for graduate school. They will be angry and hurt if I move out, but I have reached my breaking point. What should I do? -- Putting a Price on Sanity

Dear Sanity: Move out. You say you can afford rent, so consider a place with multiple roommates to save money. It would be worth it to have a measure of peace. Look into student loans and grants. Your parents may be hurt and angry, but they will understand your motivation and get over it. And if they are so eager to help you save money, perhaps they would be willing to set aside a little each month to give you a hand with the tuition when the time comes.

Dear Annie: When I married the man of my dreams, I gained a teenage stepson who lives with us. My husband refused to communicate with his ex, so she would just show up to see her son. She lives in another country, so I thought I would befriend her and offer to let her stay with us when she visited.


My husband and I are working through some financial hardships right now. During his divorce, my husband gave his ex a business he created. She pays no child support. Now I see that she visits Miami all the time, staying in luxury hotels, yet she won't spend a dime for her son's benefit.

I have to admit, I'm jealous and a bit annoyed that she has no financial obligation to her son, but expects him to bend over backward whenever she calls or visits. Should I push the child support issue or just let it go since she isn't a frequent part of our lives? -- Green-Eyed Stepmom

Dear Stepmom: How does your husband feel about it? How would your stepson feel if your attempt to get child support caused his mother to stay away? Consider all the repercussions, discuss it with your husband, and then let the final decision be his.

Dear Annie: When our middle son was in high school, he, too, wanted long hair. We came to an agreement: He could grow his hair long, but if it wasn't kept clean, he'd wake up one morning to find chewed gum stuck in it. A couple of years later, he joined the Marines and hasn't had long hair since. That was 20 years ago. -- Ralph (Proud Dad of a Marine)


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2018. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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