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Section: children, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
When my sister and I were young, we were told our mother had died when we were babies. Two years ago, I was contacted by a woman claiming to be our biological mother. She had been searching for us for 33 years. My father died 10 years ago, so I have no way of knowing the truth, but her story sounded legitimate. I am slow at developing new relationships. However, my sister, who lives on the opposite coast, welcomed the woman with open arms and began calling her "Mom" immediately. I was stunned when I learned that the woman had packed up and moved to be near my sister. I invited my new mother to come stay with me for a week so I could get to know her better. I explained it might take me a while to adjust to her. A week after our visit, which I thought went well, I received an angry letter from her saying she was disappointed in our visit because I did not welcome her as warmly as my sister did, which hurt her feelings. I tried to discuss it with her but got nowhere. I saw my sister not long ago, and she lectured me about my lousy relationship with our new mother. She made me feel terrible. Do I need professional help? I will get it if you say so. -- Washington Woes

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Section: relationships, sexuality
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I never have cheated on my wife and am absolutely certain that I never will. We have been married for five wonderful years, and our marriage is rock solid. Here's the problem: About a year ago, during a moment of passion, I happened to call out the name of my wife's best friend, "Annabelle." You can imagine my wife's reaction. Annabelle is single, in her early 20s and good-looking, and she has a terrific figure. She moved out of town three years ago. I made it clear to my wife that nothing ever went on between Annabelle and me and that calling her name was just part of a harmless fantasy. I tried to explain that fantasies are normal and I have no intention of acting them out. My wife accepted this explanation, and things seemed to be going well. Now comes the hard part. Annabelle visits us once a year and stays for a week. Her visit is coming up soon, and my wife has started to turn very cold. In fact, she's downright hostile. I know she is afraid I will be attracted to Annabelle and feels threatened. What can I do to reassure her and get things back on track? -- Faithful in Denver

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Section: relationships, health-and-wellness
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I have been married for three years, and it is obvious that my mother does not like my wife. I can deal with that, but I'm becoming increasingly upset by the way Mom behaves around "Amelia." Two weeks ago, there was a milestone family affair, and we hired a professional photographer to take pictures. As we were preparing to pose for the photo shoot, my mother informed Amelia that she could not be in the pictures because she was not a blood relative and therefore not a family member. My wife stepped out, but I could see she was very hurt. There have been other instances, as well. One evening when several of us went to the theater together, Mom happened to end up sitting next to Amelia. She abruptly stood up, moved to the other side of the row and announced, "I want to sit next to my son." I have asked my mother to please stop treating Amelia so shabbily, but she insists she has nothing against my wife and accuses me of being overly sensitive. I hope you can help me. -- Not Mama's Boy in Missouri

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Section: relationships, children, dating
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I read the letter from "Slow Boil in California," who resented the amount of time her husband gave his ex-wife. He apparently helped his ex-wife with her taxes, visited his ex-mother-in-law when she was dying and spent 20 minutes at a time talking to his ex on the phone, discussing the kids' grades and upcoming events. I say, if "Slow Boil" wanted a man with no baggage, she should have chosen one. When two people have children together, that makes them a family whether they are together or not. That husband should help his ex-wife no matter how he feels about her, simply because she is the mother of his children. His new wife should not feel threatened by this. It can actually be beneficial to her as well as to his children if there is no hostility. After a divorce, a lot of healing can take place when the ex-partners are civil and kind to one another. If there is no civility, bad feelings turn into bad words that turn into bad behavior. The children then learn by example to perpetuate hate and anger. As a child of divorce, it has given my siblings and me great comfort to know my father still cares enough about my mother to help her out when she needs it and that we can still enjoy family events together. It has also made us appreciate our stepmother for being so generous and loving. "Slow Boil" should be thankful she found a man with a bigger heart than most. -- Grateful in Plano, Texas

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Section: children, sexuality, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I would like to address this to all the young women who, for whatever reason, think having a baby is "cool." I am the 17-year-old mother of a 4-month-old daughter. I will be the first to tell you it is not easy. And if you think having a baby will improve the relationship between you and your boyfriend, you are wrong. It will only make matters worse. My boyfriend and I called it quits a couple of weeks ago, when the fighting became unbearable. After three years of being very close, it's over. If I have changed just one teenager's mind about getting pregnant, the time it took to write this letter will have been well worth it. -- Been There in Indiana

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Section: manners, mental-health, relationships, dating
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
I am a 27-year-old woman currently living in a large house with three roommates -- two male, one female. One of the guys, "Eddie," owns the house. I think Eddie is obsessive-compulsive. He pastes our names on the silverware so we will know which fork to use. He has assigned us parking spots, even though we have no parking lot and use a public street. He posts a calendar for us to mark off which days we are using the laundry facilities. I once put a mark on the wrong day, and instead of erasing it, he got a new calendar. I could live with his quirks except for one thing. He often tells me personal, intimate things about his life, including how much he longs for someone special to be with. I get the distinct impression he wants that someone to be me. Eddie doesn't frighten me, but I'm uncomfortable around him. I don't want to move out, Ann. The rent is cheap, I have my own room, and the other roommates are great. I cannot afford anything better. The only solution I've found is to work late and spend as much time in my room as possible. Do you have any other suggestions? -- Whacked Out in the West

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Section: mental-health, children, health-and-wellness, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
My husband and I divorced last summer. We have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. I bought a house a few miles from my ex-husband, and the children and I have been living there for the last five months. My daughter slept with me for the first month we were in our new house, until I could afford to buy her a bed. I admit it was nice, and I didn't mind. I like having my children close. The problem is, it has been five months, and she still wants to sleep in my bed. I wouldn't mind, but I am afraid it could be damaging to her in some way. I could use some advice, Ann. -- Suzi in Houston

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Section: addictions, children, health-and-wellness
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
The recent letters you printed concerning parents whose underage children are drinking raises a critical point that cannot be overstated: Parental involvement is crucial to raising drug-free and alcohol-free kids. The most recent national survey for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens who drink, smoke or use pot are less likely to tell their parents where they are on weekends, less likely to have a parent at home after school and less likely to rely on parents' opinions when they make important decisions. They are also less likely to attend religious services regularly. Nearly half of 13-year-olds say their parents have never discussed the dangers of illegal drugs with them. The survey also found that teens who have tried marijuana say their friends had the most influence over their decision. Teens who have chosen not to smoke pot say their parents influenced them most. The bottom line? Parents have more clout than they think. They should use it. -- Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman and president, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

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Section: children, grief-and-loss
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
Yesterday, we buried our only son. He was 9 years old. Apparently, he found the loaded gun my husband kept in the drawer of his nightstand, and well -- you can guess the rest. Please tell your readers NEVER to leave a loaded gun where a child can reach it. Even better advice, don't have a gun in the house. It won't protect you. The invader is more experienced at shooting, and he will get you before you get him. It is too late for us to protect our son from our carelessness, Ann, but maybe my letter will save someone else's child. -- Grieving in the Midwest

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Section: children, relationships
 
 

Dear Ann Landers,
My husband's mother passed away four years ago. His father remarried not long after, but my husband hasn't taken to his stepmother very well. He never speaks to her unless he absolutely has to. Although there never has been an argument or a fight between them, the tension is obvious, and it is uncomfortable for everyone. About two months ago, I had a long talk with my father-in-law and let him know that his son wanted a closer relationship. The minute I opened my mouth, his wife jumped in, made all kinds of accusations and stormed out. I admit I might not have been very diplomatic in my approach, but I figured it was best to be honest and lay my cards on the table. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to do. I have apologized to his wife for being so frank, but I cannot change the way I feel. Now, the woman avoids us completely, and I think she is persuading my father-in-law to do the same. I am afraid I have made things worse, and now, I want to make the situation better. Any ideas? -- Lost in Louisiana

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"Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and repeat to yourself, the most comforting words of all; this, too, shall pass."
-Ann Landers