DEAR AMY: My husband left me five years ago. I am now a divorced single mom with two beautiful children, ages 10 and 8. I am also an only child and am fairly introverted, which makes it difficult for me to make new friends. I find it so hard when I see other happy families together, I want nothing more than to have someone (the right someone) to share my life with. I envision myself growing old with no one but a dog around for company. I am a fun person! But I am not a social butterfly ... and I am certainly not into the whole dating online thing. The only people I hang around with are my parents, and I think they are getting bored with me. I don't want to appear desperate, but seriously, Amy, how do adults in their 40s make friends anymore? It was so much easier when you were little and could just walk up to someone and ask, "Hey, do you want to be friends?"


DEAR LONELY: You mention a dog as something of a worst-case scenario, but my first suggestion is that if you don't already have one, you should consider adopting a compatible canine pal.

Yes, dogs are awesome comforters and companions, but dogs are also people magnets.

You describe yourself as an introvert who also wants to meet new friends, and one great aspect of having a dog in your life is that a dog will serve as both a conversation starter and a focal point while two or more humans are glancing their way toward a connection. When you have a dog with you, you don't have to make eye contact with another human — until you are ready. The dog soaks up all of that otherwise awkward attention.

You should also do your best to connect with other parents, especially other single moms. Other divorced parents will understand your needs and challenges.

And, to answer your last concern, one of my (now) closest friends first walked up to me in our daughters' kindergarten class and said, "You seem nice. Do you want to be friends?" Rocking it kindergarten-style!

DEAR AMY: I'm divorcing my narcissistic husband. He's medically retired and stays at home all day while I work. I pay all of the household bills. He's now stating I have two decisions. 1: Buy him out of the house, which he paid nothing toward. 2: Put it up for sale and split the proceeds. I want to keep the house to get it ready to sell next year. I'm barely making ends meet, as I had to take a lower-paying job when I was laid off of my previous job. He's never offered to pick up anything financially, except to pay for food on occasion. I'm feeling like I should sell the place as cheaply as possible so he doesn't get anything. I put $50,000 from my 401(k) as a down payment, which I'll never get back. Any thoughts on how to deal with this situation? I'm stuck in a house with a vindictive man who just wants me to suffer.

Lost and Broken

DEAR LOST: Your husband does not get to dictate the terms of your divorce. The laws in your state will spell out fairly clearly your options regarding your property.

Much depends on whether you live in a Community Property state, or an Equitable Distribution state.

Do some research on your own regarding the divorce laws in your state, and hire a competent attorney to help you make the choice that would benefit you the most.

In my view, low-balling the value of your house in order to punish your husband financially is not an appropriate approach. But low-balling the value of your house in order to sell it quickly and restart your life might be the right thing for you to do.

DEAR AMY: I could relate to the letter from "Tired Mom," who was so worn out dealing with her youngest teen daughter. My husband and I also struggled with a "mouthy" teenage daughter (youngest of our four). In therapy, she basically said that she felt like the least valuable member of our family. She is lovely, smart, had nice friends, and an intact family that loved her. It broke my heart. And during that time God told me to stop fighting WITH her, and start fighting FOR her. It changed everything.

Mary Beth

DEAR MARY BETH: This is beautiful, and so very valuable. Many parents will benefit from your wisdom.

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