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Originally published Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Potential husband puts girlfriend last, helps adult children first

A recently divorced woman is having second thoughts about her new relationship.

Syndicated columnist

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Perhaps it's time for "Fun in Retirement" to find friends who more closely... MORE
Unclench and let some sunshine in! MORE
Give me a happy eccentric over a dour conformist any day! I am also 66 and I say don't... MORE

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DEAR CAROLYN: After 40 years of an abusive marriage, I finally got my divorce and recently reunited with my first love. We have been together almost a year now and were planning to get married.

I'm having second thoughts. He is obsessed with his adult children, who are married with children of their own. They both live more than 1,000 miles away. If I get sick and need something, he ignores me, but if his son's wife needs money, he can't wait to send it.

I have tried talking to him about this and it just ends up in a fight. I tried telling him she wasn't his responsibility, but he just doesn't see it. What should I do?

— R.

DEAR R: Look at this through the lens of your strengths, vulnerabilities and experience. During those 40 years, did your inclination to stick around, set your needs aside, minimize your doubts and keep the peace serve you well?

You don't mention any counseling after you left your abuser; given your long marriage to someone who mistreated you, and your impending marriage to someone who puts you third on his list — or merely takes advantage of the fact that you put yourself there — it appears you're living by an old, unhappy pattern. If you question whether you can shred it and design a new one in its place, then I urge you to run these second thoughts about your relationship by a reputable therapist.

Something to keep in mind either way: When you ask your partner for something you value, and he refuses, your remaining options are these: stay on his terms or leave on yours. Don't let other things clutter that point.

DEAR CAROLYN: I always thought "aging gracefully" meant having a good attitude about the inevitable, annoying and sometimes disgusting aspects of aging.

I have a friend who seems to interpret aging gracefully as behaving in what she considers an age-appropriate way.

I'm living with the attitude that at my age, 66, I've earned the right to do what I want if I'm not hurting anyone else. My friend has expressed disapproval of me for: coloring my hair, getting Botox for my forehead, running in races, wearing fitted clothes (even though I am thin), letting my tattoo show, taking Zumba classes, etc.

I see these as differences in personal preferences, not as violations of some unwritten rules.

Still, she has me wondering. Am I making a fool of myself? Are people laughing at me behind my back? Everyone has seen old ladies with garish makeup, hair and clothes. What do you think about "rules" for aging women?

— Having Fun in Retirement

DEAR HAVING FUN: Let's say people are laughing behind your back. Is that a good enough reason to change the way you live your life?

Why wouldn't you feel sorry instead for people so shackled, even threatened, by "rules" that they have to tame any rule-breakers with ridicule? Are the Zumba-dancing, tattoo-showing "old ladies with garish makeup" the punch lines, or is the joke really on the people who spend their whole lives taking pains to blend in?

For someone who is "not hurting anyone else" and chooses "Having Fun in Retirement" as a signature, I can think of only one change that makes sense: to encourage your friend to unclench.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living.

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