Dear Abby: I’m stressed about how my stepmom controls my dad.

DEAR ABBY: My father, who is approaching 80, has been married to my mother-in-law, “Ruth”, for nearly 35 years. She has always been temperamental and controlling to some extent, but over the past few years it has become very clear that she is emotionally abusing my father.

Twenty years ago I moved to another coast, and even though Dad wanted to visit, the decision was always up to Ruth, so they never did. However, when it comes to his immediate family, Dad is required to attend every event. During COVID, I only moved a few states, and that’s when I got the full picture. Ruth took Dad’s cell phone and sold his car, so he’s pretty much stuck. She won’t even let him mention buying a vehicle. He’s an artist and she never “allowed” him to have a studio.

The list is long, sad and frustrating. He forbids me to confront her, but it stresses me out daily because I love my dad and I’m afraid his control is something he’s gotten used to. No advice? — GIRL IN DISTRESS IN THE SOUTH

DEAR DAUGHTER: As repugnant as the situation may be for you, I don’t think you should try to reduce your stress by creating more for your father. He has forbidden you to confront his wife about her hypercontrolling behavior, and you must respect her wishes. I don’t have to like it; you don’t have to like it. But that’s what your father’s been willing to accept for 35 years. He and he alone could have ended it or left her if he had really wanted to.

DEAR ABBY: I am a college student who broke up with my long time boyfriend in high school a few months ago. He was a cheat, so I moved quickly. I enjoyed the single life, but now I find myself in a bit of a love triangle.

“Derek” is blond and short, and loves going to the gym. He’s kind and caring, and he seems to care a lot about me. He invited me to his formal ball, but I turned it 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 prom said he didn’t even talk to another girl, so I know he’s already very loyal.

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

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

DEAR CRAZY BOY: I have good news. Because nowhere in your letter did you mention that either of these young men asked you for an exclusive relationship, you didn’t “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. (Do not hesitate to write to me again if you meet a beautiful 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 PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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James V. Hayes