Dear Abby | Women’s shared misery enabled better friendship

Dear Abby: I lost my husband of 45 years three years ago. My longtime friend, “Grace,” was very supportive and included me in family dinners and outings so I wouldn’t be alone. A year ago, I moved away to start a new life for myself. Grace still lives in the same town and is still married to a verbally abusive, depressed husband. She told me once that she envied my freedom, but not how I got it.

I have met a wonderful man. We are in love and will see where it goes. When I talk to or see Grace, she never asks about my life or what I am doing. She vents at length about her husband, her marriage and other things in her life.

I think she liked it when I was miserable, too. Now that I’m happy, I don’t really want to see Grace anymore. She’s using me as someone she can unload on, and in my opinion, that’s not friendly. What should I do? Keep avoiding her? I don’t want to confront her, but if I need to, I would like to do it in the best way. – Moving On

Dear Moving: I don’t think you should “confront” Grace either, but avoiding her isn’t the answer. Have an honest, non-confrontational talk with her. Tell her you are concerned that she is so unhappy. Explain that the amount of venting she’s doing is creating a wedge between you, and she needs to make some important decisions about her life and her marriage.

I don’t know how economically dependent Grace is on her husband, but it might help her self-esteem to find a job. If she’s unable or unwilling to do that, she’ll have to decide if this is how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

Dear Abby: I have Tourette’s syndrome, the type that causes coughing, among other things. There are different triggers that cause the coughing to start, and one of them is the smell of mowed grass. This means that I cannot mow the grass where I live. A lot of my family members think that I should do it anyway. They probably think I’m lazy, as I still live with my mother and can’t afford to move out right now. I’m tired of constantly repeating that I can’t mow the grass. They know of my problem, but seem oblivious. – Cough, Cough in Illinois

Dear Cough: Ask your doctor to write you a letter explaining your medical problem, so you can share it with the relatives who seem unable to believe you have one.