DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine recently found out his daughter, “Rhonda” (who is over 18), feels she should have been born a boy. “Ronnie” is now living life as a man and plans to change genders completely.
To say the least, my friend and his wife are finding it difficult to deal with. He doesn’t understand why she can’t just be gay, which he would be fine with. I want to give them emotional support while at the same time supporting Ronnie, but I’m having a hard time relating to their feelings.
Could you provide some resources for them, such as organizations that help families deal with gender changing and all that it entails? — WANTS TO BE SUPPORTIVE
DEAR WANTS TO BE SUPPORTIVE: I know an excellent LGBT organization that has been mentioned before in my column. It’s called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The largest increase in new individuals reaching out to PFLAG is now among trans people and their family members.
Ronnie can’t “just be gay” because the issue isn’t sexual orientation; it is Ronnie’s GENDER IDENTITY. PFLAG can help to explain this to Ronnie’s father, and he should visit pflag.org for guidance.
DEAR ABBY: I have been with “John” for 18 years. We married while he was in prison. I know I have outgrown him, but I’m scared to say it’s over in case I realize later that we should be together. Over the years, we have both cheated and hurt each other.
I don’t know exactly what I am holding onto with him. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else out there to choose from, so maybe I should stay. I’m not afraid to be alone, but I am confused. I am suffering from depression over this. Please help. — STUCK IN DES MOINES
DEAR STUCK: If the only reason you haven’t left John is that there’s no one else around to choose from, it’s understandable that you would be depressed. The status quo isn’t fair for you or your husband.
As I see it, you have two choices: Fix your marriage or leave. Of course, the better option would be for you and John to have counseling to see if your love can be revived. However, if it doesn’t work, then it might be better for you both to separate. The reason there is no one else out there right now may be that you are unavailable.
DEAR ABBY: Call me ungrateful, but I am very uncomfortable receiving gifts. How can I get longtime friends to stop bringing hostess gifts when I invite them over? I don’t need anything, and I resent feeling I am obligated to take something to them, too.
Why do women do this and men not feel so compelled? I have tried remarking, “The present of your ‘presence’ is present enough,” but it continues. I need your help. — UNGRACIOUS IN FLORIDA
DEAR UNGRACIOUS: Women usually bring hostess gifts because they were raised to believe it is the gracious thing to do. (“Don’t come empty-handed.”) Since “remarking” hasn’t gotten your message across, you will have to be more direct with your friends. TELL them that when they visit, you would prefer they bring only themselves and nothing more. Then explain that you are at a point where you have enough “things” and do not need or want any more.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to “Tom” for nine years. I moved into his house after we married. I downsized a lot of my belongings, but the problem is, Tom doesn’t want me to have anything of mine in his house. He’s always giving my things away or making remarks about what I do have is trash. I have decided to put everything of mine into storage. I will even keep my clothing elsewhere and keep only a comb and toothbrush in his home.
This makes me very sad because I feel he does not value me. I feel homeless even though I have a place to stay. I work and we split the bills. I don’t know why he’s so negative about anything that is mine, and I’m wondering if I should just move out.
I have tried talking to him and he says he is “only joking” when he offers something of mine to someone else. However, because he has given away my things in the past, it’s not a joke to me. — GUEST IN MY OWN HOUSE
DEAR GUEST: When a couple marries, depending upon their circumstances, they find a way to combine their belongings or start fresh. That your husband would give your things away without your permission is insensitive and disrespectful. That you have tolerated it until now tells me your marriage is not one of equals, which is not healthy for you. Under these circumstances, I can understand why you would want to leave.
If Tom is willing to accompany you to couples counseling, it MIGHT help you to communicate better. However, if he isn’t, YOU should talk to a therapist about your entire relationship with Tom so you won’t find yourself in a subservient position in future relationships after you move out and divorce him.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I host many holidays, Thanksgiving, Passover, etc. Invariably, everyone gathers in the family room and several people put their legs up on the ottoman with their shoes on. It drives me crazy! I view it as no different than walking on someone’s furniture.
My wife thinks I should say something. I actually have done that in the past, but not for years. When I did, it made me look like the bad guy. Is this a weird fetish of mine or am I right? — PAUL IN BUFFALO GROVE, ILL.
DEAR PAUL: If you prefer that your guests not put their feet on your furniture with their shoes on, speak up and say so. Doing that doesn’t make you a bad guy or a fetishist. It’s your home, your preference, and it isn’t rude to address something that bothers you, especially since it’s something that you have mentioned before.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 25-year-old who has been dating a great guy for a year. The relationship is everything I have dreamed of — and more. My only concern is that my friends don’t seem to care much for him. That doesn’t bother me, but what does bother me is they are distancing themselves from me now.
I’m no longer invited to gatherings. My “best friend” doesn’t keep in touch anymore, and I have given up on trying to reach out every time. If I do manage to talk to her, she makes an excuse to get off the phone as quickly as possible.
I have never done this to any of my friends, regardless of whom they were dating or what life threw at them. Is this a normal part of life? Should I reconsider my friendships? — BOTHERED IN BOSTON
DEAR BOTHERED: Relationships sometimes ebb and flow. Before “reconsidering” these friendships, have a frank and honest chat with these women about why they don’t like your boyfriend. That your BFF would treat you the way she has is puzzling, unless she’s jealous because you spend so much time with your boyfriend or he has offended her in some way.
On a different note, does this man have friends of his own? Do the two of you socialize with other couples? Having been together for a year, are you making new friends together? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it may, indeed, be time to move on from this tribe of girlfriends.
DEAR ABBY: So many of your letters involve people having difficulty communicating with others. Here’s a safe, honest, straightforward technique for targeting the behavior, sharing feelings and explaining the reasons for those feelings. It is called an “I-Statement” and has three parts: (1) “When you …” (2) “I feel/felt …” (3) “Because …”
I-Statements can be used for the sharing of any and all feelings by kids, teens and adults. Feelings are valid because they are our honest emotions. In addition to giving positive strokes to one another, people can learn to better understand each other and have whole, complete and satisfying resolutions to problems. Try it! — SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST (RETIRED) IN OHIO
DEAR PSYCHOLOGIST: I will! When I received your suggestion about improving communication, I felt grateful that you took the time to share it because it was not only generous of you but also may be helpful to many of my readers. Thank you for sending it.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.