Life Advice



First Relationship Post-Abuse

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: I was in a very controlling and abusive relationship from the time I was 15 until three years ago, when my ex passed away. We were both in our late 30s at the time.

After he died, it took me 10 months of searching before I found someone who is kind and caring -- just such a sweet guy. But lately, I've been frustrated with the dynamics of our relationship.

I work seven days a week, nearly 60 hours. He works maybe 10 hours a week. And I would say that 95% of what I make seems to be spent on him and something he needs. And I already pay every single bill that comes to the house -- utilities, phone plans, groceries, etc.

I'm at my breaking point. I can't live like this anymore. The happiness seems to have been all wrung out of this relationship. It's almost starting to feel like my last relationship, just without the abuse. I've told him how I feel, and he acts like it's no big deal and that he'd just like to continue with things the way that they are. I'm not so happy anymore, but I don't know what to do because he is such a great guy. Please help me. -- Very Confused Girlfriend

Dear Confused: Just because a relationship isn't abusive doesn't mean it's good, or even healthy, and a great guy wouldn't dismiss your feelings when you bring them up. But I have to ask why you started paying all his bills in the first place. It sounds as though you're exhibiting co-dependent tendencies, which is understandable. Being in an abusive relationship can decimate a person's self-esteem, and while your ex may be gone, the trauma he inflicted is not. I encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) for referral to counseling services and other resources that can help you begin to heal from the abuse you've suffered.

Dear Annie: Two years ago, I lost a grandchild unexpectedly. As you can imagine, our family was traumatized and needed love and support from family and friends. Several friends were there every step with a listening ear, and even some acquaintances went out of their way to offer support. The only person who never reached out was my sister-in-law. We were never close, but we were cordial. Over time, I became more and more resentful of her lack of empathy. On the few occasions when we find ourselves in the same place, I cannot hide my angry and hurt feelings and just put on a happy face.


I want her to know how her behavior has affected me, but I don't think it would matter to her. How do I just let go and pretend? -- Can't Pretend

Dear Can't Pretend: Some people are not comfortable expressing empathy when someone passes away. It's hurtful. It's selfish. It adds insult to the worst kind of injury. Your anger is justified, and your sister-in-law has done nothing to earn your forgiveness. Forgive her anyway. You need to for the sake of your mental health and healing. Accept that, for whatever reason, she has some emotional limitations. Let the grace shown to you by friends, other family members and acquaintances make up for the lack of grace shown by her. I am deeply sorry for your loss.


"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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