Dear Annie: I have been in love with "Cliff" for four years. We bought a home together two years ago, but soon after, he became unemployed, angry and spiteful. I tried to tough it out, believing it would eventually get better, but when Cliff became verbally abusive, I took my two kids and left. I asked him if he wanted me to stay, and he said no, he didn't think things would improve.
We kept trying to fix the relationship, or at least I did. But Cliff was dating other women and lied to me about it, and the whole thing has become a hurtful mess. I still love Cliff, but don't know whether I can trust him anymore. My guilt over leaving him and his son to deal with the foreclosure on the house we bought together kills me. He won't express any anger, even though I can see his resentment. He also won't address the lies. Is this a lost cause? Am I hoping for too much? -- Love Struck in California
Dear California: You could make excuses for Cliff's terrible behavior by believing his job loss depressed him and he couldn't cope. But that only underscores a certain level of immaturity and irresponsibility. When the going gets tough, Cliff lies and cheats. Life is filled with tough times, and your partner should be someone you can count on. Cliff doesn't seem terribly interested in working on your marriage. At some point, you have to make the decisions that are best for you and your children. Professional counseling can help you work through this and move forward.
Dear Annie: I recently lost my spouse and now attend a grief support group that has been very helpful. However, there are a couple of members of this group who monopolize the conversation for at least half of the time allotted for the total meeting, and worse, they repeat the same thing over and over again. We also have a new member who attends to support a friend whose husband died, but now we know all about her abusive childhood.
Grief groups work well by sharing pain caused by the loss of a loved one. Members support one another. This is not possible unless there is an open and caring interchange between members. Perhaps those members who are causing problems will see this. -- Southern Griever
Dear Southern: Most grief support groups include a moderator of some type, usually a trained counselor. Although a certain amount of off-topic discussion can be appropriate and healing, no one should monopolize the sessions so often that it prevents others from expressing themselves. If you feel that your support group is not fulfilling its purpose, please speak to the moderator. Another option, of course, is to find a different group.
Dear Annie: I'd like to say something to "Don't Want To Pick Through the Weeds," whose mother-in-law is a packrat. Leave your mother-in-law alone!
I'm 81 years young, and I have collected many things over the years. These items may not mean anything to anyone else, but to me they are sacred. That unfinished birdhouse will be finished when I have the time. That cracked pot was given to me on my wedding day. That old newspaper you can't read any longer was a copy of the L.A. Mirror on the day World War II started.
And as for those drawers no one has seen the contents of in years, maybe it's because I don't want anyone to see what is in those drawers.
As long as my house is clean (and it is cleaned once a week by a professional service) and I am healthy, leave my stuff alone. It won't be long before you can do whatever you want with all of my things. Don't be surprised by what you find, and be sure you have it appraised before you toss it out. -- Quartz Hill, Calif.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.