Annie's Mailbox for May 3, 2011: Can't leave husband with no job, car

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Dear Annie: I have been with my husband for more than 25 years. During that period, he has cheated countless times, left me for other women and developed a crack habit. I have tried to stick it out because I believe marriage is for better or worse.

Right now is definitely "worse." He will not admit that he has a problem. He hangs out with some shady individuals who knock on our door day and night. He cannot pay the bills because he spends the money on drugs. If I venture an opinion, he blows his top or leaves the house and stays out until the next morning. He constantly accuses me of cheating. It does not seem like a marriage anymore.

We share the same bed and try to be cordial to each other. But we are like roommates. I know it is over. I have no money, no car and no job, so I do not see a way out of this. I have been trying to find affordable housing for my daughters and me, but it's impossible without an income.

He is not willing to leave, and I have no place to go. How can I get over him while we are living in the same house?

— Lost

Dear Lost: Many states have job-training programs for women in your position. Call the governor's office or your state Dept. of Labor and ask. Most states also now offer 2-1-1 phone lines that can direct you to resources, including low-cost legal assistance. And please reach out to your family, church and local community centers for help.

Dear Annie: Please settle a disagreement. After 40 years of mental abuse, I finally ended the toxic relationship with my mother in order to keep my hard-won sobriety. Except when absolutely necessary, we have not spoken in more than 10 years.

The problem is what to say when someone asks, "How is your mother?" I reply honestly, "I don't know. We don't speak." My husband says I should simply say, "She's fine," and leave it at that. But the one time I did, the woman exclaimed, "How can that be? She was in a car wreck yesterday!" leaving us both embarrassed. What is the best way to handle such inquiries?

— Better Off Without Mom

Dear Better Off: If you don't mind telling people that you are not speaking to your mother, it's fine to say so, as long as it doesn't provoke a long-winded lecture. We recommend a slightly altered response: "I don't know. I haven't spoken to her recently." It's honest, without giving too much personal information, which, we assume, is your husband's main objection.

Dear Annie: I generally agree with your advice, but I think you blew it with "Tatted," the girl who got a tattoo and was afraid to tell her dad. I agree that she should tell him right away, but to say it was OK because she is an adult is ludicrous.

Just because you are 18 doesn't make you an adult. If she is living with her father, she has to abide by his rules. When you can support yourself, pay your own bills and live separately, you can get your tattoo. If you talk in the theater, the ushers will throw you out. If you smoke in a restaurant, you will be asked to leave. So why should an 18-year-old do what she wants without regard to the rules set down by the person supporting her? It's his house.

— Bill

Dear Bill: Your analogy only goes so far. Dad can certainly ask his daughter to move out over this. But would you feel the same if he dictated what kind of makeup she can buy with her own money? Even if you believe she is immature, she is in fact a legal adult and entitled to pay for her own tattoo. If Daddy never allows her to make her own choices — good or bad — she will never learn to be responsible.

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