Dear Abby: My mother and stepfather, "Rick," are being divorced after 12 years of marriage. Mom had an affair, and I understand that Rick is angry, but he is being vindictive.
He says my sisters and I have to choose sides, and if we're on his side, we must cut off contact with our mother. When we said we would not take sides, he got angry. He has told his side of the family that we're horrible people, and they're not allowed to have contact with us any longer.
Abby, these are people we have known for 12 years. They want a relationship with us and we with them, but after the terrible things Rick has said about us, we don't know if we can face them. Please tell us what to do. Any advice would be helpful.
-- Needs an Opinion in Virginia
Dear Needs an Opinion: Your almost-former stepfather is upset. He wants to punish your mother. For him to demand you "divorce" her in order to maintain a relationship with him is childish and unrealistic. The only person he's isolating is himself, which is sad.
Rick's family has had 12 years to get to know you and your sisters. I'm sure they recognize that he is being irrational. Please don't allow yourselves to be intimidated by whatever he might have said about you. Talk to them. Burn no bridges. The divorce will end and life will go on. If the relationship you have had with these people was built on a solid foundation, it will endure.
> Expand your circle
Dear Abby: I am an average-looking, middle-aged woman. I have many friends and a career I love. What I do not have is a partner. It breaks my heart. I feel excluded from an important part of life -- romantic love.
I have had relationships with men. All of them were disasters. At the age I am now, there seems to be little or no hope of finding anyone.
Most of my friends are married or in committed relationships, and I feel like an outsider. I am involved in my church and my career, and to all outward appearances, I look happy and successful.
But, Abby, inside I am terrified that I'll be alone forever. Sometimes I wonder how I will survive this life. How do I cope with my sadness and my fear of being alone forever?
-- Single in Dixie
Dear Single: There are worse things than being alone. Chief among them is being stuck in a relationship (formal or otherwise) with someone who isn't right for you. If you are spending most of your time with couples, perhaps you should arrange to spend more time with other singles. Expand your circle.
If you need help for your depression, talk to a therapist. But never tell yourself you will NEVER meet someone. It's self-defeating.