Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am 23 and have never been able to stand up for myself. I have an extremely sloppy roommate whom I always have to clean up after, a former fiance I want to cut ties with, and an overbearing mother who treats me like a child.

I know I'm in these situations because I have allowed them to happen. I'd like to be able to speak my mind without fear of what will happen, but it's almost as if I feel blackmailed, and sticking up for myself will make them angry. Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated.

— WANTS TO SPEAK UP, ST. LOUIS, MO.

DEAR WANTS TO SPEAK UP: Stop for a moment and look at what being a people-pleaser has gotten you — a roommate who takes advantage, a former fiance who won't stop clinging, and a mother you're afraid of having a frank talk with. Are you afraid if you have an unpleasant conversation that they won't "like" you?

By refusing to speak up, what you're doing is encouraging more of the same. However, if you draw the line with your roommate and stop acting like her maid, she might straighten up — or move — which would free you to find someone with better personal habits. If you tell your former fiance it's time to hit the road, you will free him to find someone else, which would actually be doing him a favor. And as for your mother, wouldn't it be healthier to air your feelings than harbor the resentment you're nursing?

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a wonderful man for 28 years. My problem is his mother, "Hildegarde," has always been overly attached to him, so much so that we moved out of state to get away from her.

Hildegarde has now not only moved to our same small town, but to a home just up the street! My husband works long hours, and his mother expects him to visit her daily. If he gets a day off and we do something together, she cries to anyone who will listen that her son "never comes to see her."

This is affecting our marriage. Hildegarde acts like a jilted lover, and I am considering divorcing him to get away from her. Can you please help me?

— TRAPPED LIKE RATS IN COLORADO

DEAR TRAPPED: Nowhere in your letter have you mentioned your husband's feelings about his mother's antics. Surely he must have known she was considering the move. Was he afraid to discourage her?

If ever I heard of a couple who needed couples counseling, it's you two. You must stick together and form a united front. Hildegarde may also need a therapist to help her understand that her neediness is over the top. But exit the marriage only as a last resort, because if you do, you'll be leaving him to her, and she is insatiable.

DEAR ABBY: Ever since 2/02/02 I have created dinner parties or luncheons to celebrate days with unique numbers. On 5/05/05 (Cinco de Mayo) I had Mexican food with my family. On 6/06/06, six of us went out to lunch. The opening night of the Beijing Olympics was on 8/08/08, so eight of us had Chinese take-out while watching the event.

I plan to continue this tradition until 12/12/12. With 9/09/09 coming up, my daughter suggested "Dress to the Nines" as the theme. Isn't that cute? One of life's greatest pleasures is to share a meal with friends.

— CLAIRE IN BETHLEHEM, PA.

DEAR CLAIRE: I agree. While food fills the stomach, the company of friends and loved ones can be more gratifying because it fills the heart and feeds the soul.

P.S. I hope that 13/13/13 isn't a Friday.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.