Dear Margo: An Interesting Ramification of a Bad Boyfriend

Why can’t I hold on to my best friend and my boyfriend? Margo Howard’s advice

An Interesting Ramification of a Bad Boyfriend

Dear Margo: I’m a 34-year-old woman who had a close personal friendship with my co-worker “Norma,” who is 46. After five years of friendship, Norma has become more than just a dear friend — she’s a mentor and an older sister/mother figure for me. I have grown to depend on Norma’s friendship perhaps more than I should, which brings me to my problem.

I have been in an unhealthy relationship for three years, and Norma has been my support and confidante through it all. She always urged me to leave the relationship. Finally, when I decided to do it, Norma was overjoyed. I tried with all my might to stick to my guns, but in the end, he begged me to reconcile, and I caved. Although I know the relationship is unhealthy, I am finding it difficult to walk away, and this has impacted my personal and working relationship with Norma.

At work she is cold and distant to me; even e-mails have a professional tone. All contact outside of work has stopped despite her assurance, when I ask, that everything is OK. I am working hard to get the courage to end my relationship, but I feel alone without my friend. –Flawed Friend

Dear Flaw: The “unhealthy relationship” you refer to, I believe, is also called “complicated.” He’s married. Your friend’s disappointment and disapproval have apparently colored her feelings for you, especially since you announced you were finally going to straighten up your life. Alas, yours is a do-it-yourself project, and right or wrong, you and Norma will not patch it up until Mr. Wrong is gone. I suspect she felt three years was all she could manage watching you self-destruct. Look at it this way: With her support, you couldn’t quite get it accomplished, so maybe now you can. And do it for yourself, not for Norma. –Margo, practically

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

Dear Margo: My father, in his late 50s, recently had a heart attack. It was minor, and he not only survived it, but he did so without medical assistance — he called the pain a “3” on a scale of 10! While we’re all counting our lucky stars that he’s so tough, we are worried. I’m in my early 20s, and my brother is a young teenager. The idea of losing him terrifies us. He is overweight, diabetic and has arthritis in his hip. He won’t listen to anything anyone tells him about eating right or exercising. The heart attack should have been a wakeup call, but he hasn’t changed his ways at all. Logic, sentiment and nagging are all coolly deflected. I want him to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, meet his grandchildren and see them graduate high school. How can I get through to him that he needs to take care of himself, if only for me? –Nervous Daughter

Dear Nerv: I understand your frustrated feelings about your father’s seeming intransigence, but I will tell you this: If having a heart attack did not scare him into taking better care of himself (e.g., losing weight), nothing will. I wanted to ask a cardiac surgeon, the kind of doc who sees more of this than anyone, what he thought … so I asked the one who lives in my house. He said he has, indeed, seen these situations, and some people straighten up, and some don’t.

There can be many factors at work. Your dad may feel invincible, lucky once, lucky always or unwilling to make the effort. Alas, he will not do this “for you.” The situation is a little like being alcoholic: The person who needs to make a change must want to. I hope you will accept that everyone is a free agent, and there is really nothing another person can do. Try not to feel burdened by something that is out of your hands. –Margo, acceptingly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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87 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Jim Martin says:

    There are also people, like me, who simply do not trust the health industry and would rather not get caught up in its insanity. People die, and exercising and eating “right” may be statistically advantageous, but they are no guarantee of anything.

    People can eat right all their lives and still die at 40, and people can eat every meal at McDonald’s and live to 100. I know Margo is married to a doctor and would never agree with what I’m saying, but there are legitimate reasons to live a life free of the health Nazism that is sweeping this country besides a sense of invincibility, laziness, and luck.

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      While some people do live to a ripe old age while they scarf down burgers and fries, smoke like a chimney, and drink all day, many more people don’t.

      It’s been shown how certain processed foods actually clog up a person’s intestines. That person may or not show symptoms right away, but if you took a section of their intestines and put it under a microscope, you would see the goop layered right on top of it, clogging it up. Just like a longtime smoker may not feel any signs of artery disease, but if you sectioned off a piece of one of their arteries, you’d be able to squeeze the plaque out like a scoop of spoiled mayonnaise. The same thing with cigarette smoke. a Teenager may smoke a half-pack a day and go running or play football, but if you ran a scope into his lungs, you could find a small patch of alvioli where thousands of cells had been destroyed by the smoke.

      You may not feel any bad effects from the things you do, but that’s because our bodies miraculously have such an abundance of cells to do the work you need. our veins are much larger than they need to be, our lungs much richer than they need to be, our livers much more resilient than they need to be, until they aren’t. By the time that you feel anything wrong, it’ll be too late.

      You can look at the people with chronic lung disease, or type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, or memory problems, and think about if you want to wind up like them. If you want to, you can keep on doing what you’re doing. You’ll get there.

      • avatar Jim Martin says:

        I’m just not particularly interested in health, and the older I get (63 now) and the less healthy I become the less interested in it I am.

        The one certainty is that I will die. I could die of diabetes and heart failure at 63 while eating potato chips and reading Margo, or I could die at 93 while eating a salad and running around the block, or at any age doing anything. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is enjoying my life as fully as I can for the very brief time that I have it. I do not like running (or any other form of exercise) or salads, but I love potato chips and Margo.

        For most people, evidently, living as long as possible is an important goal. For me, it’s not. So your threats of “chronic lung disease, or type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, or memory problems” don’t scare me, because I’m for sure going to die of SOMETHING, and it might just was well be one (or all) of them as anything else.

        We just have different values.

        • avatar blue tooth says:

          If you die quickly then you will have achieved your goal. But what if you have a sever heart attack that leaves you alive but unable to cross the street without gasping for breath? What if you have a stroke that leaves you paralyzed but lucid? What if you find yourself unable to care for yourself, but otherwise perfectly healthy? Is that the kind of dying process that you want? I’ve seen it happen to many of my friends, and I’m right up there with you.

          I might die in three years or thirty. But whatever time I do have, I want it to be healthy. I want to be able to walk to the park, or play with my grandkids, or remember the movie that I saw last night. I for sure don’t want to spend years laid up in a hospital bed, or in a nursing home, or gasping for breath every day and night.

          It’s not that this stuff kills you. It’s that it makes your life miserable for a long time, before it kills you.

          • avatar Anne Talvaz says:

            I’ve tended to view the whole health-morality issue with some scepticism ever since my slim, salad-loving, generally abstemious father, whose job required him to exercise, died of bowel cancer at 60. Meanwhile, my definitely overweight mother is still going strong at 77 and mentally sharp as a tack. Admittedly, like many people her age fat and thin, she now exercises to keep her limbs in working order.

            Life isn’t fair, Bluetooth, and a righteous life is no guarantee. Stop trying to stress other people out. Are you aware that that, too, is a public-health hazard? Or are you so addicted to bugging other people you can’t see it for yourself?

          • avatar sc72 says:

            everyone may have their own values and preferences with respect to diet and exercise, but blue tooth is right on the money saying that there’s a whole land of misery that lies between ‘living life fully’ and death. my (thankfully) ex-husband is a prime example of someone who didn’t take care of his health, didn’t die, and is living in a pretty diminished capacity with liver disease and various other ailments at the ripe old age of 40. and now his healthcare is on the state’s dime as he is unable to work. being stuck taking care of someone who refuses to take care of themselves is a lot more stressful than what blue tooth proposes. it’s an advice column, blue tooth is giving his/hers just as anyone is entitled to do so maybe you, Anne, could back off the hostility.

          • avatar CanGal says:

            As someone who is morbidly obese and is finally doing something about it, I could not agree with you more about living life fully. To date I have lost 55 lbs and I cannot believe how even losing that small amount of weight(comparatively) has changed my life. I find I am enjoying my life more now than ever. Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.

          • avatar D C says:

            You GO Girl!  80 and counting here

          • avatar Anne Talvaz says:

            Nice work CanGirl – and enjoy the results for all you’re worth!

          • avatar Dorisan says:

            Thumbs up, CanGal

            What I haven’t seen mention is genetics. Some people live longer despite their bad habits just because it’s in their programming. Despite being a 3-pack-a-day smoker, an unhealthy eater, and mean to boot (I think some people are just too nasty to die. meanness keeps them going) she is now 75 and is just at this time starting to develop health issues. When I think that she’ll probably be like her *own* mother, who put in 85 of the most hate-filled years on this earth, I can’t help but think how unfair it is that many good people die at a younger age, but there you are.

            Me – I’ll just hedge my bets. I could repeat history and count on having those long life genes to keep me going, but eating right and exercising just makes me feel better – more energized, sleep better, have a better over-all appearance and attitude.

          • avatar Anne Talvaz says:

            I’m sorry to hear of your troubles as I understand them only too well. My mother was stuck taking care of my father for 5 years. Neither of them “deserved” what was happening to them. You should have heard some of the questions they were asked, though. “What did you do to get yourself into this?” “What have you been feeding him?” “Shouldn’t you have had a more positive attitude?”

            No one is “entitled” to give health advice except qualified health providers. in my experience, laypersons who bang on about health issues are either grossly insensitive or motivated by darker, if unacknowledged, emotions. Either way, it doesn’t do to be too nice to them.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            What is “righteous” about attempting to live a reasonably healthy life, and what does “morality” have to do with it? Are you somehow equating religious fervor with being healthy? As an iconoclastic, highly cynical, fat agnostic, I resent that allegation.

            I exercise. I like to cook, and I prepare healthy meals for my family. That doesn’t mean wheat germ, shriveled chicken breasts, and flavorless brown rice. I love Mediterranean food…olive oil, fresh vegetables, fish, garlic, wonderful spices, lovely choices in whole grains,lean meats…excellent, exotic fare. I use meat that comes from animals that are raised truly free-range and cruelty-free, and slaughtered either halal or kosher.

            Why? I have a genetic problem with high cholesterol (my mother, who weighs about 100 pounds, and eats no fat, has high cholesterol, as does my marathon-running, nearly vegetarian cousin), and I am losing fat because I still have a fourteen year old son at home. I don’t want to burden him with a drooling vegetable ***too*** soon. Yes, we all die at some point…but it’s the quality of life we lead in between now and the Big Sewer that makes a difference…not just for ourselves, o selfish ones, but for those who might just get stuck caring for us when we are dribbling rutabagas.

            And, hostile people, that’s not morality or righteousness…that’s love, and compassion…practicality and thinking ahead. Assisted suicide, and the right to terminate one’s own life when it isn’t a life anymore are illegal in this country…so those who love you will probably be caring for your animated corpse if you aren’t actually on ***life support*** when your nicotine and tar encrusted lungs, cholesterol and plaque clogged arteries, alcohol rotted livers, and diabetes decayed kidneys fail and turn you into a root vegetable.

            Unless you just hate everyone in your lives, or want to be a burden on the taxpayers’ for a while before becoming an actual deader, which might be why you’re so resistant to even taking care of yourselves a little bit. Or maybe you’re the sorts who are simply too lazy, or are convinced it wouldn’t be any fun. Some people think that all fun is self-destructive. Okay, then. It is reminiscent of the people who think that those who don’t drink at a party aren’t having fun. Or people who don’t get high aren’t having fun. Sure.

            O, and yes, anyone can end up with a stroke, or in a vegetative state…even the healthiest person. There are always genetics, and peculiar physiological defects that go symptomless and undetected for years…and then there are drunk drivers, terrorists, rabid bats, various lurking viruses and falling buses. But why dramatically increase the odds of ending up drooling in your shoes and being unable to…dare I say it…have ***fun*** for a decade or two while adding the distinction of being a source of unhappiness and pain (and even guilt) to those who care about your selfish self by being a stubborn, reactionary “I’m gonna die anyway so I might as well have fun doing it…unless, of course, I end up unable to even ***care*** about taking care of myself, and lying about in diapers and occasionally cluing to the misery, helplessness, and joylessness of my situation”. Cool. Have fun.

          • avatar Jim Martin says:

            blue tooth,

            That is exactly why I have no intention of even dipping my little toe into the health care industry. It is that industry that forces lingering, torturous deaths on people. That kind of death is extremely hard to find anywhere else.

            If I DID have a severe heart attack or a debilitating stroke, what would happen in the natural course of things is that I would die fairly quickly – as long as I stayed where I was and did not go to a hospital. I might be in pain for a few days, but if I were unable to care for myself as you suggest, I would not be able to drink, and I would die of dehydration, or something else equivalent. That is how disabled animals die in the wild, and they are my model for death. However death comes, as long as it comes naturally, is how I want it.

            I’d rather die of dehydration lying for two weeks alone and helpless at the bottom of my basement steps than lying helpless for ten years in a nursing home with tubes stuck in my arms. It’s hospitals and doctors – the greedy, intrusive, invasive health care Nazi regime – that make dying a long torment. Nature does not do that to any creature.

          • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

            That would happen if no one finds you, but if someone finds you then you are going to end up in the hospital and your condition will be stabilized.  I hope you have a living will to express your wishes.

            I doubt dying of dehydration for two weeks is an easy way to go.

          • avatar Jim Martin says:

            I do have everything in place to insure that even if I am found I will not be taken to a hospital to be “stabilized.” Anyway, the odds that anyone WOULD find me lying in my basement or anywhere else in my house are about as good as my winning the NYC marathon while sitting here at my computer. I live a very quiet, private life because it is the kind of life I love, and no one is ever in my house but me.

            I do not insist that death be pleasant. How could I do that anyway, unless I were willing to take a drug overdose, and I’m not. The deaths I have seen in hospitals and nursing homes were not fun either. I just want it to be natural. That’s all.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            I understand your wishes, Jim. My hub & I are both in medicine. Most of us go into it to help others increasing their quality of life. That being said, it doesn’t mean we subscribe to the treatments offered. We offer all of them & explain the risks & benefits so each person can weigh what they want to do. It is each person’s decision to be make those choices. (Frankly, I rarely take tylenol. And I take no other medications. I agree there is overuse of healthcare–at the insistence of patients, not doctors). You are correct that medicines can make one worse or to have other issues. The beauty is you can refuse any treatment, if you are considered sane. I just sincerely hope you don’t regret your decisions at the nth hour. You contend you won’t be found, but please be aware that your “living will” or any other documents will not prevent your admission to the hospital if you are incapacitated and unable to convey these things. I hope you have someone who checks on you & is able to stick to your exact wishes. Most people can’t.
            Most people do not want to take medicine, but find that their quality of life improves. If it doesn’t, they can discontinue it. Many people turn to the Nazi health care system for pain control. It is easy to proclaim one can tolerate any & all pain, but when that day comes, the majority realize they cannot. Most often, people do not die from an initial heart attack or stroke (they lucky ones do). Most commonly, people become somewhat debilitated over time (live in a terrible mess) & continue to have more attacks. I think we can all agree that nursing home placement or long term hospital stays are not desirable. Hopefully, your end of life is swift and painless.

          • avatar Jim Martin says:

            blue tooth,

            I appreciate your taking the time and care to write this. It is thoughtful and generous, a big improvement on your earlier hostility. It’s good to find a lot in common with someone who looked at first like just another mindless adversary.


            I recognize that there are many individuals working in the health care industry who are decent, dedicated and compassionate. My problem is not with them at all. My problem is that a vocation that used to be dedicated to relieving suffering has been transformed by capitalistic greed into a soulless machine wholly committed to fighting death, to prolonging life at ANY cost (and cost is the perfect word to use here). Relieving suffering has become a secondary consideration: extending life comes first.

            It may seem that extending life is a form of relieving suffering and therefore an appropriate concern of health care, but it is not. As anyone with open eyes can see, extending life very often INCREASES suffering, and much of the suffering now being treated is caused by the medical treatment whose aim is to extend life.

            The root of the problem stared in the 1960s when a doctor in Tennessee (my home state, from which I gratefully escaped decades ago), whose son later became a US Senator, had the uncanny idea that hospitals – which until then had been run almost exclusively by religious organizations and the federal and local governments as charities – could be turned into extremely profitable businesses. The result was Hospital Corporation of America, and the outcome is today’s demonic, profit-driven health care industry, from which you cannot divorce the insurance and drug companies, however much you might want to.

            I could go on for many, many more pages, but I’m tired of this.

            Thanks again for taking the trouble to reach out to me as a human being.

        • avatar momis says:

          While you may have little to no interest in your health, you might want to reconsider your destructive habits because they may have an impact on your loved ones. Like someone else mentioned, you may not suffer a quick and painless death but be left behind with a body that is unable to perform the simplest of tasks to take care of yourself. At that point, it would be your loved ones decision to take care of you or put you in a nursing home.

          My mom works in a nursing home and she has plenty of stories of patients who are mostly depressed for not being able to take care of themselves and being forced to depend on someone to bathe them and change their underwear. It is a humbling experience to have to wait for someone to help you do something you did for yourself most of your life. Some of the patient are not even that old in age but are there because they suffered a stroke or other debilitating health problems that could had been prevented if they had a healthier lifestyle.

          • avatar Jim Martin says:


            My reply to blue tooth above pretty much addresses your comment as well, but I will reiterate it here.

            I would become a burden to other people only if I became dependent on them. If I died in my own house because I had become unable to care for myself, my death would affect other people only to the extent that they missed me after I was gone; but that would happen regardless of when or how I died.

            If I choose to live my life free of the health care Nazis – by which I mean both the trillion-dollar health care industry AND the billions of lay people who effectively worship it by mindlessly believing everything it tells them and doing everything it tells them to do – and attacking anyone like me who refuses to go along – if I do live my life free of all that, refusing to LET it keep me alive once I can no longer care for myself, then the process of my dying will be a burden to no one but me.

          • avatar sc72 says:

            information is so prevalent these days about healthy and non-healthy foods, moderation, benefits of exercise and sleeping well, it’s just common sense to be responsible about it and take care of your body as much as you are able. as Dorisan says, sometimes genetics trumps the best of efforts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

            you make it sound like doctors and hospitals cram life-prolonging treatments down people’s throats, which is hardly the case. you go to a hospital, they treat you. if you refuse treatment, that’s your choice. the real tragedy in health care is the overwhelming costs that force less fortunate people to receive substandard care and to suffer needlessly in the way you describe you actually want, or that there is no system for people with terminal conditions to be allowed to die with dignity and painlessly of their own choosing assisted by qualified professionals. it sounds to me, using words like ‘health care Nazis’ and accusing people who ‘bang on’ health care issues as grossly insensitive, those of you with the anti-health care attitude are the ones on the attack rather than those who advocate a healthy lifestyle. take it or leave it, your choice.

            my 90 y/o grandmother, who has been relatively health her whole life, has been in a nursing home for a year and a half. she has dementia, which won’t kill her. she’s not hooked to tubes and wires, but she is also no longer ambulatory (legs wear out after 90 years, also not lethal) so she can’t care for herself. she’s being fed, cleaned, and cared for until she does pass ‘naturally’ – when her body shuts down on its own. are you really suggesting it’s better that someone in that situation should knock around their own house with no assistance until they fall down the stairs or slip in the tub and suffer for days waiting to die? that’s not natural, that’s barbaric. I hope you don’t really have to spend those two weeks lying at the bottom of your stairs starving and dehydrating to death as they will probably seem like an eternity.

            congrats to CanGal and DC – your achievements are inspiring. 🙂

          • avatar Jim Martin says:


            I am only speaking for myself. I do not mean to be attacking anyone. I refer to health Nazis only because that to me is a very clear, useful, and relevant image of the behavior and mindset I see all around me.

            What other people do may horrify me, but it is their business and their responsibility, not mine. If your grandmother enjoys the life she has now, then that is wonderful, and if you are happy for her to be living as she is, then that is wonderful too.

            I don’t see how you get the idea that dying naturally from a fall or some other treatable event is barbaric, but if that is how you see it, that is your business. To me, it is far more barbaric to lie helpless for years in a bed while other people feed, clean, and care for me. I would hate that.

            However long the days or weeks spent at the bottom of the stairs might seem, they would, eventually, come to an end. If I happened to have a lethal dose of morphine in my pocket at the time, I might take it, or I might not.

            Life is full of wonderful experiences, and I have learned that the most productive and transformative of those experiences are almost always the most painful. So I really do not think I would take the morphine even if I did have it. Why not savor dying, in whatever form it takes, with whatever pain and discomfort it brings, since it will my last opportunity to get from this life the riches it has to offer?

            As I said to another commenter, you and I just have different values.

          • avatar sc72 says:

            no, she doesn’t enjoy her life, she has dementia. she has no idea what goes on around her. but she’s not being kept alive by artificial means either. I’m not saying it’s ideal (far from it), but the alternative to let her flounder on her own in pain and waste would be needlessly cruel.

            if you fell, bashed your head open and died quickly, that would be one thing. if you fell and broke your legs, couldn’t move, and waited for days to starve to death, that’s not natural. your legs could heal with proper treatment and you could go on to live many fine more years. there’s nothing noble about giving up on life because you’re too stubborn to accept help. I’m single and self-sufficient and I don’t like to depend on other people either, but that wouldn’t stop me from seeking help if I needed it. I wouldn’t wish that kind of death on an animal in the wild and i wouldn’t wish it on you either. needless suffering is barbaric.

            I haven’t seen the movie 127 hours because I’m squeamish, but take that as an example. a guy has his arm caught between a rock and a hard place. he could have just sat there and waited to slowly die, but he fought like hell and even cut off his own arm to survive. and he did survive and has a life today. Christopher Reeve – paralyzed, needed lots of care, did incredible things for advancement of spinal cord injury research before he died. living life to the fullest isn’t just about enjoying hamburgers, it’s about making your life mean something no matter how small and not giving up.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            Well said.

            On the other hand, if your cat was suffering the same way, you might have it put out of its’ misery. Religious beliefs offer rules that most follow when it comes to end of life for humans.

            I would have to guess Jim has never experienced horrific pain or he wouldn’t speak so casually of it. I haven’t either, but I have witnessed many who have. I have also witnessed the cruelty/naivete of family members who won’t let a loved one pass naturally because of monetary or personal reasons.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            I am certainly not implying you are doing this with your grandma. I was referring to Jim’s fear of being kept alive unnaturally in an institution.

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          ah, using statistical outliers to justify bad behavior… how clever.

          “some people eat well and die young, so i should just do whatever i want because it doesn’t matter.”

          yup, that’s rational.

          i’m guessing you also hate seatbelts. and probably smoke.

      • avatar Lucy Henry says:

        Blue Tooth, that stuff on the informercials that sell “colon cleanses” about people’s colons being “clogged” with pounds and pounds of fecal matter is bunk. Ask anyone who’s ever had a colonoscopy. Processed foods may be unhealthy, but they still get digested.

        • avatar sc72 says:

          who said anything about colon cleansing? ewww. if you want to see what smoking, eating fatty foods, and excessive alcohol consumption does to your organs, just check out a Body Worlds exhibition.

        • avatar blue tooth says:

          I’ve never seen that infomercial. I’m talking about autopsies that I’ve seen.

          There was an interesting study I saw a few months back, tracking how quickly food moved through the body. They worked with long-haul truckers, who usually eat in a rush while on the road, diner food or snack food, not that healthy but probably a lot of us eat mcdonald’s or burger king’s or wendy’s or pizza hut when we get the chance, or on work days, so our diet’s maybe not that different.

          These guys took these little pills once a day, undigestible, containing little RFID chips, and a little device in the truck cab tracked when they (ahem) went away. typically each pill worked its way through the intestines for 3 or 4 days. Then making a few small changes, a salad here, a bowl of oatmeal or some whole-grain bread there, and these things were through in 12 to 15 hours, sometimes even 9 hours. Think about that, 9 hours versus 48 hours. Does that sound healthy to you?

          A lot of things are digestible, and a lot of things just pass through. But some things clump together and move through very slowly. And some things, some high fat, really greasy things, actually cause inflammation in the intestines as they pass through. Think, McDonald’s french fries.

          By the way, the deal with colonoscopies is that the person getting one goes on a restricted diet for a day or so, and does the colon cleansing at home. Look up Magnesium Citrate and Polyethylene Glycol for more info.

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Jim – I actually agree with you. I also agree with Vonnegut that some people wish to commit suicide by cigarette/booze/eating everything in sight…and should be free to. (And I thank you for the compliment.)

      • avatar Jim Martin says:

        You are very, very welcome. I really do love you, Margo. You are a bright light in a world growing dimmer and darker as we speak. My fantasy death would be to read one of your columns and then have my last breath be a sigh of agreement, contentment and relief.

        Nice fantasy, right? Maybe if we agree on it it will turn out that way.

      • avatar Jim Martin says:

        I guess I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but that’s what these forums are for, isn’t it.

        I’ve been thinking about Margo’s reference to Vonnegut’s statement about suicide by eating, etc. Although I agree with Margo and Vonnegut about that too, that is not what I am talking about in my own case.

        I am probably the least suicidal person I know. I LOVE being alive, and I love my own life. I would have no objection at all to living to be 100 or even older. I am just not willing to sacrifice things I get great pleasure from now, or to do anything I hate doing, just to try to live longer. And I for SURE am not willing to do it just to placate a bunch of neurotic busybodies who feel compelled to tell me how to live my own life.

        I understand that many people feel much better when they are fit and trim and so those benefits are worth modifying their behavior for. But I have BEEN fit in the past, and I have BEEN trim, and it just didn’t do much for me. I discovered long ago that I am happier fat and sedentary than I am in any other state, and so doing anything to change that would not only be unpleasant for me but it would get me something I don’t even want.

        The bottom line, I guess, is that I am a hedonist. I love being happy. I love pleasure. I love being alive. I just have no desire at all to be fit or trim or healthy if it means giving up anything I enjoy.

        So I do not fit into the camp of the health Nazis, nor into Vonnegut’s camp of suicidal gluttons. I think I just belong to some other age or culture, in which enjoying life is what matters more than anything else.

        • avatar Lila says:

          Jim, my great-grandfather dropped dead at a Valentine’s Day dance at which he was a guest of honor. Now that’s a great way to go. His daughter dropped dead in her own kitchen in her 70s, having never been feeble or dependent on anyone. Not bad, not bad.

          My Dad, on the other hand, was caught in the act by my brother, who called 911 and got him 17 more years of life, most of it pretty active and healthy. Like you, he never wanted to be dependent on anyone and CERTAINLY not institutionalized… thankfully that never happened.

          Despite how my Dad’s story turned out – I’m with you, if it came down to a choice: I would rather keel over on my kitchen floor in my 70s still independent, than shuffle into my 100s in some nursing home where perky nurses tell me I can’t have my chocolate or Cokes. My future answer to them: “I’m gonna DIE soon! Gimme the damn chocolate!”

          • avatar Jim Martin says:

            Mmmmm… chocolate!

          • avatar sc72 says:

            I thought that too about keeling over on my kitchen floor, until I watched the 5th episode of the 2nd season of Six Feet Under. although I will agree with you that a life without chocolate is not a life worth living. 🙂

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Jim…I am not a health Nazi by any means. I have to keep my weight to a minimum (I am fat now, and I am struggling with my tendency to rapidly build muscle when I exercise, which makes keeping track of fat loss a nightmare) because my joints are shot. Why? Because I got my black belt in tae kwon do at 43, after 4 years of hard work, which I thoroughly enjoyed…but also caused me to literally blow out both knees. No, I didn’t have surgery, because we couldn’t afford it financially, or for me to be down for eight weeks (my kids, whom I love completely, were much younger then)…and because surgery might have done more harm then good. My back is a disaster from riding horses (hunters and jumpers) for decades. I love horses in a way few people do, and would risk myself to keep them from injury. Hence, a ruined lower back. I love to lift weights and body build (yes, I am female), swim (I am a water baby), do high intensity, Brazilian style water aerobics, and dance (I am a terrible dancer who always leads my male partners, but I still love to dance). I am a sun and heat worshiper, and I don’t give a damn about wrinkles and lines, nor do I “lay out”…but I do spend hours in the 90 degree plus heat and sun in the public pool taking delight in the glorious water.

          I am a recovered drug addict and alcoholic. I loathed being drunk, stoned and high. The only thing I truly enjoyed, and still crave when under extreme stress, even after over 25 years, is the float of opiate pain killers (which is why I never use anything stronger than ibuprofin). I have been diagnosed with OCD, bi-polar disorder I, body dysmorphia, two phobias, clinical depression separate from the bi-polar diagnosis, and unspecified anxiety disorder. I have an unofficial, psychiatric diagnosis of delusional schizophrenia (let’s just talk insurance companies). I have been dealing with hallucinations (auditory, visual, tactile, scent and taste) disassociative issues, anomie, and depression since my earliest memories (which start around the age of 4)…and I believed that I was meant to be male from my earliest memories until I was sixteen.

          I am an extremely joyful individual. I love being alive. I have a very few people who I love deeply and unconditionally, and who love me. Part of my life’s purpose is bringing them happiness, and comfort. I could never live as you do…because it might well compromise their lives, and their joy. I cannot imagine the horror my 14 year old son, or my 20 year old, or my husband of 17 year might feel if they thought I had lain suffering in a basement for two weeks…regardless of my own feelings. I have been suicidal…because my own sense of self-worth is often very low, or even non-existent. Because I think, believe, even know that I am ugly, useless and difficult. I am ***not*** being self-pitying…these are symptoms of the diseases that I carry inside my ill-constructed physical plant. I fight them with the pleasures I take in life. These are relatively simple: cooking an excellent meal, reading a phenomenal book, listening to music (I have genuinely eclectic taste), singing, being in the water, time taken with my husband, with whom I share a deep, close and still powerful and passionate relationship, laughing with my sons, holding my cats. I have given up absolutely nothing.

          I am a hedonist in many ways. As I’ve said many times on this site, no one here would know me if they saw me. I have the dirtiest, most wicked laugh I have ever heard. My delightful husband was unable to control his amusement when I purchased a sunhat recently. When I asked him what was so funny, he said, “Big hats should be worn by women with innocent faces. You couldn’t look innocent to save your life. You’ll always look evil”. He said this with great admiration. Oddly, people come up to me, apropos absolutely nothing, complete strangers, and tell me their life stories…this somewhat exotic, certainly odd, buzz-cut, wicked-looking, golden-eyed, cynical fiend (if you doubt my cynicism, read a few of my other posts. I do so love Homo Sapiens, but I always expect the worst, and I don’t think anything ever really shocks me). Huh. But I have never felt that I have ***sacrificed*** anything…not to have children, to allow people to care, to lead a healthier lifestyle, or to care if I live more carefully and die more gracefully. I am no martyr, and despise the type. I intend to live forever or to die trying.

          I was once a nihilist. I don’t know what comes with death. I am not afraid of pain…but hugely worried about being a burden to others. It won’t matter if I’m a brain damaged rutabaga to me if I’m only vaguely aware that I’m alive, and totally unaware of actuality…but it might matter a great deal to those who care. I’d prefer a quick death. There are instructions in place regarding life support, and heroic measures…but it is supremely difficult in this country to do anything unless one is “brain dead”. If I fell down the stairs and had the lethal dose of morphine, I would take it so that those who care would know that there was no suffering. I would have that compassion. I have little or no interest in investigating slow starvation and dehydration…my understanding is that the first few days are horrific. This seems to be a universal opinion based on near death experiences from thousands of humans of various persuasions.

          You appear to think of life in terms of sacrifice, compromise, giving up, and denying yourself. I think of life as evolving, moving through transitions, learning, discovering and becoming. No, this is not dogmatic, nor does it come from self-help books, therapists, being “born-again” (shudder), or being addiction recovery (I did that completely alone). It comes from moving from merely existing, to surviving, to living, to actually being. Just experience, Jim, nothing more.

          As to my first post, I wrote it very early, and it posted extremely late, so it is a bit awkward and directed more at another reader’s comments than yours. My apologies, as sometimes comments will take hours to post, and are therefore out of context when they do appear.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            Briana, Add to your list of diagnoses, that you are extremely verbose (likely manic today, eh? 😉 ) and many of your thoughts contradict earlier ones. On this site, joyful would not be a descriptor I would ever use for you. 🙂

          • avatar A R says:

            LW1: When it comes to friendships with people who choose destructive relationships, there is only so much one can take as their pal before you just get sick of the drama that permeates the friendship. Whether the toxic significant other is abusive, rude, needy, controlling, or just a general loser, his (or her) issues seep into every area of the partner’s life.
            The friend confides, asks for advice, and appears to have moments of enlightenment—but always returns to the same addiction—and the cycle begins afresh.
            Meanwhile as their pal, you bear with this for years until one day you realize that your friend is using you to keep herself afloat. She may not realize she is using you, but she is. She’s too chicken to make a change and too weak to just be alone without the significant other. That’s when you say, “enough”, and you emotionally begin to cut her loose. It won’t matter because at the end of the day, she needs her drama-filled relationship. Like any other addict,she won’t change until she hits the bottom and realizes how crappy life with this guy is.

          • avatar A R says:

            Oh sorry, that was supposed to go on its own thread. I’m not crazy. 🙂

          • avatar chuck alien says:

            … and in conclusion, i’m happy to be here on!

            “I love horses in a way few people do”


        • avatar midnight says:

          Jim, you probably won’t see this as I got in late, but I don’t think that you should be so harsh on the health care industry. I am a house painter. I go to someone’s house and they say “Paint it purple.” I say that isn’t a good idea, and they tear into me: “It’s my house. I can paint it what I want.” Ok, ok. Same with the health care industry. People say they want to live forever. You can’t blame people for asking for what they want and you can’t blame the industry for attempting to deliver. You and I don’t give a hoot. I say that is our luck and other people’s misfortune. But don’t blame the doctors; we will just stay away from them. (By the way, I get a lot of pushback from my wife, which is odd since she doesn’t really like me. Haha.)

          • avatar Jim Martin says:


            It is surprising how many people are still posting comments on this column.

            I disagree that the health care industry is not responsible for what it does. Everyone is responsible for what he does, and that applies to corporations as well as to individuals.

            Death is absolutely, incontestably unavoidable. Period. Everybody alive is going to die. There is nothing anybody can do to change that fact. By pandering to and profiting from the insane but nearly universal wish to escape death, and KNOWING that that wish CANNOT be fulfilled, the health care industry not only is taking gross, callous, and unconscionable advantage of human weakness but rejecting its only valid purpose, which is to alleviate suffering. The business it is in now – indulging and profiting from an insane and impossible desire to live forever, at any cost, which is IMPOSSIBLE – creates and magnifies suffering. That is inexcusable.

            By your argument, illegal drug dealers are not responsible for what they do, since they are simply filling a demand. The fact that heroin is illegal and what the health care industry is doing is not is just one of many examples of injustice. What the health care industry is doing is far more harmful both to the economy and to the general welfare of human beings than all the drug pushers in the world.

    • avatar Gayle Guy says:

      Yes Jim, it’s true, there are no guarantees. However, although everyone who drives drunk at high speed will not kill themselves in a crash, those who do so have a much higher chance of having that happen than those who don’t.

      In this case, however, you endanger no one but yourself if you make poor health choices, so that’s your freedom and not a matter of “morality.”

      But the attitude that you don’t want to be in a nursing home – those who are unhealthy also have a much higher chance of experiencing some long slide down that requires care than those who take care of themselves. Of course there’s no guarantee, as you said, but you maximize your chances of a longer and better life by living a healthy one.

      And it’s not “Nazism”. People are being informed and encouraged. No one is forcing anyone to do anything except not smoke around others so they don’t poison innocent victims against their will. You are free to live on Big Macs and IHOP if you so choose.

      • avatar Jim Martin says:

        You do not sound like a Nazi, but most who promote what they define as healthy living do. Whether they are aware they’re doing it or not, they treat those of us who choose to live differently as if we are defective and inferior, or lazy, or worse. That is the attitude I despise, and it is very widespread. If you do not share it, good for you, but you are in a minority.

        But you are making judgments you may not be aware of, for example when you say I could live “a longer and better life by living a healthy one.” Better than what? According to whose definition? The kind of life you and the others promote does not sound better to me than mine is right now.

        And you must have missed my saying I will never end up in a nursing home because I will never end up in a hospital. If I become disabled, I will die here in my own house by myself in whatever way the disability provides. Dehydration is the easiest to imagine, since it would take much longer to starve to death, but there are other possibilities. But it will take weeks at most for me to die here if I become unable to care for myself, not the years it could easily take in the health care system.

        Regardless of how things actually play out, the very most I’m risking is a few weeks of pain and discomfort as I die, and – as I said elsewhere – even that could turn out to be a profoundly enriching experience.

  2. avatar Constance Plank says:

    For letters both one and two:

    These are both sides of a mirror. In letter #1, the writer has once again failed to change her relationship with the bad boyfriend, despite her mentor’s loving and kind advice. Once again, the mentor’s “mentee” has gone back to the same unhealthy relationship because he begged and pleaded. The mentor has given all she can do for the letter writer, and is backing sharply off to protect herself in her healthy relationship with the letter writer. It’s called Tough Love. The letter writer hasn’t changed in all this time of whinging about her love interest.

    After a certain point you must take care of yourself.

    In letter #2, the daughter is trying to make the unhealthy loved one, the father in this case, take care of himself, so he can live. Once again, tough love is needed. The father isn’t going to change his behaviors until he sees the need. You can tap dance naked while sacrificing a chicken at midnight, but until he sees the need, he won’t want to change. So, on a Tough Love basis, I’d stop trying to make the father take care of his health, and instead, have all the relatives start asking about wishes regarding funereal rites, and where the important papers are located. Be practical, but loving.

    It might not make him change his actions, but at least the succession planning will be taken care of! And, you won’t be trying to be responsible for something you can’t control. Only he can change his behaviors.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      I suspect the father’s answer to the questions  about his funeral plans will be *Its none of your damn business*.  And he will go on as before.  And there will be no *succession planning* until he dies which may be a year from now or 20. 

      I know if one  of my heirs or relatives started asking me about my funeral plans and how I wanted my wordly goods distributed after I had suffered a life threatening event, I would promply attend to that business and make sure that the inquisitor was left out of the whole process including choosing what music should be played to make the mourners cry!  As for my wordly goods, there would be no spare left for the insolent heir who told me how to live the rest of my life. 

      LW#2 has a very common dllemma.   As our parents age, we all have fears for their health.  Some fears are due to events like LW2’s father’s heart attack and others are just general fears of them falling and not getting up someday. Guess what…your parents will die before you if you (and they)  are lucky and you will die before your children if you are lucky.   That is the natural order of things.  The real tragedy is when the natural order is altered.    

      • avatar Constance Plank says:

        Um, hello? I suggested that all of the family ask these questions of the sick person. They really are of interest to the family. Your mileage may vary. If someone who loves you tries to keep you from killing yourself by asking you the tough questions, I hope you’ll love them enough to help plan your funeral. My brother didn’t and wouldn’t. It was all the harder on us because he wouldn’t.

        Constance in the Sierra Foothills
        who recommends tough love. People will do as they will do. So, if your family member is passively committing suicide, take care of your needs first. Been there, didn’t do that. And will do it from now one.

    • avatar amw says:

      I agree with you 100%!
      If the dad is unwilling (for whatever reason) to take the necessary precautions to prevent more serious complications or even death, it is important that plans be made in the event the worst does occur.

      Perhaps that conversation will be the reason he was looking for to start living a healthier lifestyle.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Great insight, Constance!

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Your letter was probably edited for space because I didn’t see the part about your *unhealthy* relationship being with a married man.   It does complicate things but a bad relationship is a bad relationship.     I’m thinking about what Norma has had to put up with as your friend for the past three years.  Constant moaning about broken dates when he chooses his wife over you, constant conversations about will he change or won’t he, constant *but I really love him and he is just a)depressed; b) overwhelmed; c) afraid he will lose contact with his kids; d) too financially strapped to get a divorce; d) his wife is such a bitch why won’t he leave her…to the point where Norma is about to rip her hair out to keep from ripping out yours.   Three years is a lot of patience from Norma (not to mention that some people frown on adultery).  I suspect that most of your friendship has been Norma giving and you taking.  She is done with giving.  She is not your mother or your sister and she does not have unconditional love for you.  I suspect that she realized that her friendship with you was *unhealthy* for her and decided to make the break.  You might learn a lesson from her about ending unhealthy relationships.  

    Letter#2:  Your father knows he should change but he is not ready and may never be.  Perhaps he is depressed as a result of the heart attack and doesn’t even realize it himself and this has prevented him from taking the actions he should to improve his health.(Depressed people are not likely to wake up at 6 AM and go for a brisk one hour walk).    I’m sure you have already told him everything you told Margo.  He may change or he may not but Margo is correct.  He won’t change his habits until he is ready to do so.   You obviously love him very much…and I am sure for very good reasons.  Focus on that, enjoy your time with him, and if you are a religious person, pray for him.   

    • avatar Dorisan says:

      “I suspect that most of your friendship has been Norma giving and you taking. She is done with giving. ”

      Perhaps Norma wised up and realized that she would be switching from mentor to enabler if she continued supporting this person’s ill-advised relationship. LW1 sounds like the Lindsay Lohan of relationships. Time to just cut her loose and let her sink or swim. She’s obviously not going to pay mind to what people with better sense say.

    • avatar Jennifer Mc says:

      FYI, Katharine–

      The letter may have been edited for space, but Margo also communicates offline with the people who write letters to her before printing them. She’s said that more than once.

      The truth about the “unhealthy relationship” may have come out during that communication, as opposed to being laid out in the letter.

  4. avatar Jody says:

    I understand letter writer #2’s worries. My father had the right side of his colon removed due to cancer about 3 years ago. He refuses to go back for follow-up colonoscopies, yearly check-ups with his doctor, and has taken himself off of ALL medications. Wait, I retract ALL. He found out his cholesterol shot up, so he agreed to go back on that medication. Meanwhile, he ignores his prostate medicine. My father 76, was (is) a Marine, a man of few words, and believes he can do what he did when he was 35. I want to shake him. I’ve tried reasoning with him. I’ve written him letters. I’ve even sent him emails. He doesn’t care what I think. He doesn’t trust Western medicine. On top if it all, he’s in the beginning stages of dementia.

    The bummer of it all for me is that I know in order to honor my father I have to let it go. To my knowledge I have exhausted all avenues, with the lack of taking over his life, which I’m not prepared to do at this time. Ask me down the line. But, right now, my parents are married 52 years, living on their own in the same house I grew up in, only 2 blocks away from me. (Yes, I moved closer to them 4 years ago.) I worry. Can’t help that. But, I also don’t want to be in a co-dependent relationship with anyone in my family. It is a very difficult time for me. I type this tonight knowing that tomorrow morning I’m taking my mom in for a colonoscopy and an upper GI. She is anemic, and her doctor believes there is a bleed somewhere. My mother is 72 going on 17. She’s scared, and the stuff she has to drink is making her nauseous all day. But, if I can just get her there, and get the tests completed already, she will be better off for knowing if or what the problem is.

    Nobody said the journey would be easy. They just said it would be worth it.
    And it is.

    Hang in there ‘Nervous Daughter’, everything unfolds exactly as it is supposed to. All the best to you and your family.


  5. avatar bamabob says:

    lw2, having Pain that only rates 3 out of 10 is no reason to skip medical intervention when you’re having a heart attack, especially when you’re diabetic. It is not uncommon for a diabetic to have no pain at all during a heart attack. When I had a heart attack my pain was only a 1 out of 10. Nevertheless I had 99% blockage in one artery, 70% blockage in another and 60% blockage in still another. A week after my pain free heart attack I had a triple bypass. I hope your father has at least seen a doctor since his heart attack, even if he refuses to change his ways.

  6. avatar Diagoras says:

    Did the first letter contain facts that were edited out? I don’t see how else you can go from “unhealthy relationship” to “extramarital affair” when it could just as easily be about physical or verbal abuse, or the guy being a drunk or druggie or a gambler. It could be anything, really.

    • avatar CanGal says:

      Margo often contacts the writers for more detail before writing her replies, so if her reply contains that fact it is probably true.

  7. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#1: You admit it’s an unhealthy relationship (whatever the reason.) So grow up and end it. Don’t whine because your friend/mentor finally had enough. I really don’t understand women who feel compelled to stay in relationships that they themselves admit are “unhealthy”. Just think of “unhealthy” as a euphamism for “I’m stupid”.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: How much longer is “Norma” supposed to listen to you feeling guilty, wanting to end the relationship, but no you just can’t for whatever reason, yes he’s married that should be enough to end it, but there’s just something about him; no, you’re right Norma; I’ve finally come to my senses. Oh wait…he’s back…  You know?

  9. avatar D C says:

    LW#2 – You sound like me.  That same thing happened to my father, and just about a year later the second heart attack came and he died.  My dad was 45 years old (overweight, diabetic, arthritic…)  I feel for you. 

  10. avatar D C says:

    LW#1 – I’d have dropped you like a hot potato too.  If somebody was asking for my advice for years on how to stop the hurt, finally takes it and then turns around and walks back to the hurt… well… see ya!  I’m no bible pusher, but your story kind of reminds me of Lot’s wife.  You’re starting to look a little salty to me. 

  11. avatar martina says:

    My father is a retired baker who has a love affair with food and has never able to keep his weight down.  He had his first heart attack at the age of 57.  He is now 79 and weighs 215 pounds at 5’7” and this is the lightest he has ever been – he finally dropped about 60 pounds the past year due to a bad reaction to some antibiotics he was taking to try to keep the toe he finally had to have cut off because of his diabetes.  He has congestive heart failure and has had numerous stents put.  His cardiologist is thinking he may soon need a pace maker put in.  He finally sort of started looking out for himself only because my mother had a stroke and he needs to stay alive and relatively healthy to keep her out of a nursing home.  Still, we have to nag him to go to the doctor before some infection or other little thing turns into something it doesn’t need to and he ends up in the hospital. 
    It took me a long time to accept that he wasn’t going to change his behavior and to stop worrying about him and his health and to just enjoy the time that we have with him.  I realize that this is easier said then done but you cannot help a person until they are ready to help themselves and often those people are just not willing to do that.  Accept them for what they are and don’t nag because it’s just going to get everyone upset.  Do you want the rest of the time you have together to be a big nag fest?  And you never know, you just might also get the additional 22 years and counting that we got.

  12. avatar Anne M says:

    To LW 1 – I understand as I have an adult child in a destructive relationship and after 9 years of drama I have walked away. Child had an out, the courts were all set and he chooses to go back to the abuse.
    TO LW 2 You can not make anyone change, just accept and politely explain I am hoping you will be able to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day & dance at your grandchild’s wedding too. I have made the choice to be healthy; I work with a nutritionist, losing weight, eating healthy. The husband not concerned and smokes, if I say I’d like to spend my life with him he answer oh well if I am disabled just put me in a nursing home. You can not make a person change, and if you demand it only makes them more resistance.

  13. avatar Peace2011 says:

    L#2:  I take care of my mother 24/7 because she has decided since she’s going to die one day anyway, she should be able to eat whatever she wants.  She weighs almost 300 lbs (she’s just under 6 feet tall) is diabetic and has arthritis.  By take care I mean I get her up in the morning (5:30 am – her choice) so I can help her down the stairs because she’s so heavy she has trouble walking.  I fix all her meals, wash her feet and her back, put her socks on and off, etc. while she sits in her chair watching tv 14 hours a day until I take her back upstairs at 7:30 pm and I finally get a break.  Her decision to eat whatever she wants means she can’t take care of herself and she’s ok with this because she has me.  People who make this decision are extremely selfish and I feel for their family members.  I have no life and won’t until she can’t go to the bathroom by herself and goes into some sort of facility or dies.  She’s actually pretty healthy at the age of 78 so that could be a few years.  It’s a horrible way to live but I have no choice.  I hope that woman’s father and all parents realize the burden they could become because of their decisions.

    • avatar wendyblueeyes says:

      If you fix her meals, then you should cook what you want for her. Healthy meals, carrot sticks for snacks. She’s disabled, so what is she gonna do, beat you up? Yell at you? Walk out. Come back when she stops yelling. Talk to her doctor about respite care. He will arrange for your mother to go into a nursing home for a couple of weeks every year so that you can get a break. It will be a mental health vacation for you, and your mother will appreciate all that you do for her when she comes back. For those 2 weeks, you can get away, or even stay home in peace and quiet. Your mom may even be eligible for visiting nurse care. They will be the ones to get her out of bed and bathed daily. Please, talk to your mom’s doctor, or to the Health Dept. in your town for guidance. Now, as for the getting up with the chickens– get her up 15 minutes later every day for a week until she’s used to it. Then another 15 minutes. Gradually, she will get used to getting up later.

    • avatar CanGal says:

      Don’t take this as an attack, because that is not how it is meant. You are enabling your mother. When I see people so overweight (on TV shows) that their walls need to be demolished to take them to the hospital all I can think of is “that person can’t even go the store to get the food they are killing themselves with let alone into their kitchen to prepare it (or work to pay for all that food). All the person who is giving them their meals need to do is just stop, give them healthy food and portions and they wouln’t have gotten like that.”

      • avatar Peace2011 says:

        I use the example of people who feed their relatives until they can’t get out of the house all the time.  And as I’ve said, I do fix healthy meals now but since she won’t move, she isn’t losing weight.  Like many people with weight problems, she lives in denial about the damage the food is causing.

        Beancounter, I hope you can figure out a way to control your eating permanently.  If you continue to gain weight, your later years will be awful.  I know from experience.  If you want to be independent, you have to be able to move and all that extra weight will prevent that.  Best of luck to you.

    • avatar martina says:

      Unless you are financially dependent on your mother you need to get out of there or at least seek assistance.  In Pennsylvania we have the agency on aging and if she falls within a certain financial bracket (she doesn’t have to be dirt poor) they would be able to provide you with assistance.  They could provide you with an aid to come in to help take care of your mother.  They may even be able to help you transition her into a facility. I realize there is guilt involved in saying that you won’t help any longer but she is asking you to sacrifice your life for the sake of her eating.  I hope you look for assistance and wish you luck.

    • avatar Peace2011 says:

      She ballooned up to 300 lbs while living alone and I moved in last year when she fell.  She’s my Mom.  I hate the thought of her in a facility.  And I do cook healthy meals now which she hates.  We have huge battles about food.  No, I’m stuck because I love her and she knows it.  My point is I think parents know their children will take care of them when their health fails so they don’t have to take care of themselves.   I think there are probably many family caregivers in my situation. 

  14. avatar amw says:


    I’m surprised it took three years for Norma to finally have enough. She’s doing you a favor. Its up to you to decide what is more important…your friendship with Norma or continuing this downhill spiral with a relationship you know will never last.

    Not to mention, the longer you entertain this love affair, the less likely it is that you will be able to repair what you’ve lost with Norma.

  15. avatar wendyblueeyes says:

    You cannot dictate someone else’s lifestyle choices. Lord knows, I tried. My father and his 4 sisters all died in their 50’s of lung cancer. I impressed in my children the genetic link that I thought ran in the family that would predispose them to lung cancer. I was sure my kids would never smoke, since they never knew their grandpa because he died of smoking. Well, kids become teens and peer pressure takes over. One of my kids is now a smoker, as were all his friends. Now at age 25, most of his friends and even his girlfriend, have given up smoking. But he still smokes. I am silent now, all my lectures and pleading were for naught. He has to find his own way.

  16. avatar BeanCounter says:

    I’m a mixture of the two letters here.   I have weight issues that are very unhealthy, and I try to lose weight and then I don’t try to lose weight.   Three days bad, two days good, four days bad, five days good.   It’s an unending cycle.  I did weight watchers 15 years ago and lost 150 pounds, but have gained it all back and then some.   And I am one of those people that is 100% focused on trying to eat healthy and trying to lose weight, even as I’m stuffing my face with pizza.   I know I’m eating my unhappiness and despair, but sometimes it’s hard to stop a speeding car.   So, I whine and complain about it to friends and they offer advice, but I continue to fail.   I’m surprised my friends don’t just give up on me too.  🙂

    • avatar D C says:

      Well that certainly explains some of your previous posts.

    • avatar CanGal says:

      As an aside – do you exercise as well? This the first time I exercised as well as dieting and it is making a world of difference (I’ve lost 55 lbs since the end of feb). Whatever it is in my brain that food satisfies, the exercise satisfies so I do not feel the phsycological need to overeat. I never really thought I was capable of exercising before. I always told myself I would start once I lost the weight. 5 months ago if you would have told me I could work out 3 hours at a time 3 times a week and 45 min every other day I would have laughed in your face. I’m able to do this at still 350 lbs. I’m not yet at the point where I enjoy the exercise, but I am at the point where my body wants it (I get ancy when I miss a day) and I enjoy how much better it makes me feel.

      The trick is it has to be convenient when you start and to work up to it gradually.

  17. avatar D C says:

    Again re: LW2 – a woman in my work area nearly passed out the other day.  She’s about 350-375 pounds, diabetic, and smokes.  She refused to go to the clinic (I was asked by her boss to “help her down there”), and left work to go sit in the heat and catch a bus home rather than take a cab.  Her words, “I’m stubborn!”  Stubborn = control issues.  She can’t control what she eats, so she can’t control her diabetes, but she CAN control smoking and chooses to do so by smoking.  She CAN control her mode of transportation, so she’s going to take the bus even if she might die in the heat waiting for it.   some people would rather die than give up control

  18. avatar ybrenner says:

    My mother is very similar, only with her brain.  She’s had an aneurism removed and was told she had to watch what she ate, excersize, and be more active – get out some.  She does nothing.  She sits on the couch and watches TV, eats chips, donuts, cakes and cookies, won’t shower but for every 2 weeks, and sleeps most of the time.  I got a home nurse to her house to help her bath and she locked the door and told her that if she stepped 1 foot in her house, she’d call the Police.  This is exactly like she was before the surgery, just 1000 times more so.  I’ve tried and tried to get her to the doctor, but she keeps canceling all the appointments.  She thought she was having mini-strokes and didn’t tell anyone for a week.  I made an appointment for her the day I found out, and she cancelled it!  She then made her own appointment a week later and cancelled that!  I’ve told her that if she doesn’t start doing something to help herself, that I won’t be helping her when she can no longer help herself, that she’s going to go straight to a rest home.  She said fine, now leave me alone.  ( Yes, she’s on anti-depressants and Thyroid repacement – Armour. )  Unfortunatly she had a doctor who enables her by constantly renewing her prescriptions over the phone.  She manages to get in about once every other year.

    When someone refuses to be helped, no matter how hard you try and angry you get at them, you can’t.  They have to want to do it for themselves.  All you can do is watch it happen. 

  19. avatar Jon T says:

    I would say even if the boyfriend wasn’t married, just watching a friend continue to be involved in what they know is an unhealthy relationship becomes exhausting. I’ve been there, and after a while I got tired of being a sympathetic ear to a person complaining about a situation that was easily fixable. But the married part makes it worse.

  20. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Your friend and mentor has thrown in the towell. She has given, you’ve taken and you’ve done nothing valuable with what she’s done for you so now she’s done with you. You’ve disrespected your friendship. She has deservedly cut off ties with you so that you can stay on your sinking ship but not take her down with you. Good luck.

    LW2 – Leave your dad alone. He gets to do what he wants with his body and treat his medical issues how ever he wishes. Stop the conversations about his health and enjoy him while he’s here and let him enjoy himself.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Yep, this actually what it boils down to on both letters. Both are actually quite similar when you think of the phrase: “God helps those who help themselves.”

  21. avatar Susan Thomas says:

    I have read most of the comments which have been very enlightening. My parents were both alcoholics. My father died at age 55 of an aneurysm after living through the first one he had at age 42. He was the first person to live through the type of aneurysm that he had but he was never the same mentally. He became meaner, nastier when he drank, which was every day. I spent one night with him holding a loaded, cocked gun to my head while my mother held my hands and told me that it would be the best thing for me if they killed me. I, being 18 years of age, disagreed with that statement and spent the rest of the night saving myself from two drunken people who were supposed to be my protectors, but never were. It never got any better, but on Wednesday I called my sister and said ” hey besides this being what would have been your 40th anniversary it is also 40 since the last time dad tried to kill me, which was on her wedding day. Ah, sweet memories…..he died, no one but my mother mourned him, and she turned into a mean shrewish drunk who smoked and ate anything she wanted and held a pity party for herself for years. She died at age 78, after living a life filled with nothing but what she desired. She finally quit drinking a week before she died, but smoked until the end. She was only sick for a week and then died quickly. The last time she said to me was ” you were always my good little girl” really? I gees what I am trying to say is that people will do exactly what they want to do and nothing can change them, nothing! If I believe that my health is failing (I have fibromylgia, very bad) I will stock up on my sleeping pills and pain pills and drink a tall glass of B &B , sit in my car with the radio on, and swallow all my goodies. That’s my plan, and my husband knows it and supports me the same way I will support his choices. May God bless us all. Although I always thought that the way I would die was by being hit by a Budweiser truck and as I lay dying on the ground the pump nozzle opens and my gasping mouth is filled with beer!!! especially as I don’t drink now that will be a great ending to an amazing life. I have had terrible times but as I look back I can honestly say I have had an amazing life, filled with love, laughter and wonderful music. Thank you God, for all your blessings.

    • avatar Jim Martin says:


      Yours is the most wonderful comment anyone left here. I hope others besides me get to read it. Thank you for ending all this ranting on the right note: all that really matters is that God loves us. When I get paranoid about what the monster I call the health Nazis might do to me, that is exactly what I need to remember. He is greater than ANYTHING, and he loves us. Your life is proof. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  22. avatar Nancy Pea says:

    you all need to leave poor Jim alone. if he wants to die in his basement and i’m sure his kids, grandkids, coworkers, friends, wife, etc ALL know this and will not have a problem letting him die in the basement, in front of the tv, reading dear margo.

    hey jim, you should put it in your will that when you finally are found that all of us on wowow can celebrate your death with an obit by our grand lady margo! my adult kids already know what i want. i just have got off my sore butt and go get a living will and a hospital directive. they know i don’t want machines. i don’t want to be like christopher reeve or the my left foot guy. sure i’m somewhat there already (i do NOT say no to medical treatment, as long as i know the side effects up front and i know they will actually do the job they are supposed to in the time alloted) but not bed ridden yet. more a wobbly person that needs a cane somedays and a scooter others. i still have a capacity to enjoy life and my family. but they know i want no resussitation (sp?) orders and that’s that.

    i had to make the decision for my auntie (who i thought was my real mother at the time). she had orders to let her die. she wrote it herself and gave it to the dr personally. but it being 1977 i guess the dr felt he still had to ask me. he agreed with her that she should be left to die with no pain in the hospital (no hospices in california at that time that i knew of anyway) after 24hrs and extensive talks with different in laws i decided to honor her request and when she heard she smiled for almost the last time. she was given 2wks to live and died in 2days. she went the way she wanted to go and that was what was important. 

    if my adult kids find me dead or dying. they will do what i asked them to do and not regret that i lived a happy, fun and glorious life and will come back and haunt them if they even think of doing things differently. in time my grandson will also have this all explained to him. sure it’s all traumatic. but i understood it when i was much younger than most. my own beloved grammy died of a massive heart attack so feirce it ripped her heart in two (or so the autopsy report says) and i was sitting right next to her. to this day i celebrate that she was beside me when it happened and i was the last one of the family touchng her. we were very close. they tried to resuss her, but luckily it was to late. she went quickly and probably very painlessly. i’m happy for that.

    after my body (after it’s donated to science hopefully to help others with lupus) is sent away for what ever needs it can serve to science, i told my family (and friends) that an 80’s party is to be held with anecdotes, bad jokes and lots of laughter because i want ppl to celebrate my life and not mourn my death when ever it finally happens!!!

    i truly love your way of thinking jim and i rejoice in your life!!!

    • avatar Jim Martin says:

      Thanks, Nancy. It is a great relief to get a few positive, supportive comments from people who actually know what I’m talking about and don’t just have agendas they feel compelled to push on people who do not share their values.

  23. avatar victoria_suominen says:

    Flawed Friend,  I can tell you EXACTLY why Norma is fed up with you. You have become a waste of time and she has decided to make new friends.  I have a friend like you. She dumps her emotional problems onto me and I give her advice. She agrees with my point of view. But then she self-destructs and makes the same bad choices – over and over.  I finally reached the point where I no longer wanted to sympathize with her. I didn’t want to hear her troubles.  I didn’t want to be her mentor about anything.  In short, I felt our “friendship” was a one-way street. I got nothing out of it except exhaustion and frustration. She is a very nice person. She is funny, kind, and creative.  I love going out to lunch with her.  But I decided that there are other people with fewer troubles that I can go to lunch with.   At work, I need to concentrate on my job and my time spent mentoring has not resulted in a prodigy who is flourishing.  I would rather devote my energy to a person who will benefit from my help and in turn, I will benefit by having someone who can really be a friend.   I am not a mother or a sister.  Neither is Norma.  She needs a friendship which is a 2-way street.   You need to grow up and take a long hard look in the mirror.  You also need to find a good counselor who can help you gain the courage you need to end the destructive behavior.   You are, my dear, what is known as a “wishy-washy” individual. You crave improvement (wishy), but you cave in to old temptations (washy).  Until you change, Margo is right. Norma will have nothing to with you and I don’t blame her. 

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Excellent post! I agree. I have a “friend” who has been in an emotional relationship x 3 years with someone above her. The worst problem is her husband is aware and tolerates it. He has become friends with the man and they do stuff with the family (minus the wife most of the time). It seems some people crave drama.