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Problem with stepdaughter unlikely to go away soon

Staff report

Dear Annie: My wife and I have been married for 22 years. We each have two kids from previous marriages, and together, we have a son. All of our kids are doing wonderfully, except for my wife's daughter.

I don't mind helping out now and then, but "Bertha" is a complete mess. She is 33, with three children from three different fathers, none of whom pay child support.

Bertha has hated me from Day One and has tried to sabotage our relationship every chance she gets. She works full time and makes a decent salary, but still mooches off of us on a monthly basis. My wife sends her thousands of dollars. Bertha's kids have videogame systems, expensive TV sets and fancy clothes. My wife pays Bertha's rent and phone and electric bills, and sends her gift cards for groceries.

The worst thing is that my wife lies about this and hides the expenses from me. She knows I am against sending all of our extra money to Bertha. I've told her she is enabling this child and Bertha will never get a handle on life if mommy always takes care of things. My wife recognizes that sending Bertha so much money is wrong, but she refuses to ask her daughter to account for the money. Instead, she just sends more. I keep complaining, and she keeps giving.

Bertha is the single source of our marital trouble, and my wife is even talking about divorce. I want to retire next year, but we now don't have enough in savings to do so. In recent months, we have taken to keeping our money separate. I don't want to be Bertha's never-ending meal ticket. My wife is becoming increasingly bitter toward me. Is there any way to get through to her? - Tired in Toledo

Dear Toledo: No matter how wrong it is, your wife is not going to stop enabling Bertha. She feels obligated to help her daughter, and every time you display anger, she becomes defensive and more entrenched in her position. Separate banking accounts is an excellent idea, although not a solution. Please ask your wife to come with you for counseling so she can understand how her behavior toward Bertha helps no one and you can figure out how to respond to this in a more productive way - for yourself, if not for your marriage.

Dear Annie: "Grateful Granny" wrote an open letter to the "other woman," welcoming her to take on a number of unsavory traits her ex-husband displays. He sounds like a loser, but Granny may not be a total peach, either. Horrors! The "other woman" has to deal with his baldness. I don't see how any woman could possibly continue to live with a bald man! That's right up there with his drinking, pot smoking and chronic unemployment. And at 65, I have some issues with erectile dysfunction and prostate problems. Thank goodness my loving wife is not put off by my balding head and occasional ED problems. - Angry and Annoyed

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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