DEAR ABBY: Our youngest son recently married a woman who has an 18-year-old disabled daughter, "Lauren." The girl's mental level is between that of a 2- and 4-year-old. There have been physical confrontations between my new daughter-in-law and her disabled daughter, which are becoming more frequent now that they all live together. Our daughter-in-law refuses to pursue facilities for Lauren, saying she is waiting for her to be transitioned into a group home and feels much guilt in doing so.
Lauren is currently in a day program, which doesn't seem to be helping her. She has definite behavioral issues and has been put on a higher level of meds that haven't helped. Psychologists, counselors and school staff are noncommittal about offering any help and haven't advised on how to address this.
My concern is, my son and his wife now have a 6-month-old son, and I worry about the baby in this home environment. Our son loves his wife and thought he could handle the challenges that come with living with Lauren. He now says he thinks it is best to end the marriage, but he's uncomfortable about giving an ultimatum to his wife. He has a high-pressure job, and his new home environment is taking a toll on him, physically and mentally. Any advice for him is appreciated. -- MOM ON THE SIDELINES
DEAR MOM: I appreciate your concern for the well-being of your son, but if you are smart, you will remain supportively on the sidelines and not insert yourself into this sensitive situation. If your son feels so pressured he's considering ending his marriage, he should be telling his wife about it and not his mother.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 31-year-old waitress and proud atheist. I'm one of the least judgmental people I know. Who other people love, or how they choose to worship isn't important to me.
I have a regular customer who comes in to the restaurant about twice a month. He's a pastor and one of the nicest guys I think I've ever met. He'll often bring along people from his congregation and buy them dinner. He counsels new families and tries to teach them the ways of the world. He counsels angry teenagers, and they listen to him. I have tremendous respect for him.
The problem is, every time he comes in, he tries to get me to come to his church. It's sometimes an hourlong conversation. At first I was polite about it and just said no thank you. Recently it reached the point where I said firmly, "I don't need your church." Abby, he still persists!
I don't know what to do anymore. I wouldn't feel right kicking him out of the restaurant. Is there a middle ground? -- NONBELIEVER IN GEORGIA
DEAR NONBELIEVER: The pastor may be an evangelical, who feels that it is his duty to "spread the word." The middle ground, since he seems unable to accept your polite refusals, is to have another waitress serve him instead of you, if that's possible. If not, ask your manager for guidance.
DEAR ABBY: My sister takes my nephews for modeling and acting assignments. They have been in print ads, websites for clothing, and even a movie.
I was shocked when she told me her 6-year-old is interviewed without a parent present in the room. The boy is bright, self-possessed and spirited, but still -- he's only 6. Given the recent revelations about industry-wide problems with child sexual abuse ("An Open Secret" documentary), was I out of line to suggest she have a device to listen in and record? -- CONCERNED AUNTIE
DEAR CONCERNED AUNTIE: Better than that, minor children should have a trusted and responsible adult present -- whether it's a parent, another relative or the child's agent. That way, EVERYONE would be protected.
DEAR ABBY: My 24-year-old son, "Jeremy," no longer speaks to me because I asked him to move out. I'm not a fan of his girlfriend, and I'm worried about drugs. Jeremy and I have always been super close. I am so sad and I want to do what's right for both of us. What should I do? -- TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING
DEAR TRYING: I don't know how emotionally mature Jeremy is, but chronologically he's an adult. If you suspected that he was using drugs while living with you, you had the right to insist he be tested for them -- the tests are easily obtainable -- as a condition of his continuing to live with you. However, for you to have based living under your roof on the condition that you "liked" his girlfriend was heavy-handed. It was wrong, and for that you should apologize. If you do, perhaps it will give you a chance to mend fences.
DEAR ABBY: We have a relative who is a terrible cook. How can we refuse her invitations when she's only trying to reciprocate? We enjoy her company, but not her food. We have gone out to eat, but she wants to cook for us! What to do? -- SORRY, NOT HUNGRY
DEAR SORRY: You have two choices. Either be honest with her or graciously eat her food as infrequently as possible (and when you do, bring along a dish of your own to add to her dinner).
DEAR ABBY: I have a good male friend whose company I have enjoyed very much. He's outgoing and likes many of the same activities I do. Should I ever need anything, I know he would be there for me.
Unfortunately, this same person is very disrespectful to his wife. He's severely critical of everything she does. I have seen him yell and make disparaging remarks to her, to the extent that I feel it borders on abusive. His wife is a warm, caring, selfless individual who deserves to be loved by someone who appreciates all that she is and does.
Because of the way he treats her, I no longer enjoy being around him. I'd like to remain friends with this couple, but I'm not sure how to. I am very sad about all of this. Please help me. -- ANGUISHED IN ARIZONA
DEAR ANGUISHED: I don't blame you for feeling sad about what you have witnessed. While you would like to continue the friendship, please recognize that unless some changes are made, it isn't going to happen. You would be doing your friend (and his wife) a favor to tell him how bad his verbal abuse makes HIM look and how harmful it is to his wife. And while you're at it, suggest that if they are having problems -- which they obviously are -- they try to work them out with a licensed marriage and family therapist.
DEAR ABBY: Recently my middle sister started dating my younger sister's ex-boyfriend. My younger sister dated this guy in college (10 years ago) and really cared for him. It ended when she found out he had cheated on her. Younger sister is now married and has a small child.
Middle sister started dating this ex a few months ago and really likes him. He has been over to see my parents, and they are supportive of the relationship. The problem is, no one wants to tell my younger sister for fear of her being mad.
I talk to her almost daily. I'm afraid that once she finds out, which is bound to happen, she will be more upset with me (and my parents) for hiding it from her than the fact that they're dating. Should I tell her or is it not my place?
I don't want to feel like I am lying or hiding anything anymore, but I also feel like my middle sister should admit it, which she said she isn't ready to do because she doesn't want to say anything unless this turns into something serious. What should I do? -- CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: From where I sit, you have sized the situation up accurately. Your younger sister will be mortified when she realizes that everyone knew her sister has been dating the ex for months and it was kept from her. Talk to your middle sister. Insist that the sneaking around stop, because it could cause a permanent breach in the family.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old girl and recently came out to my parents, who are stuck in the "it's just a phase" mindset. I used to be able to talk with my mom about everything, but now when I talk about my sexuality, she gets quiet and dismissive. It's frustrating. I understand I'm still young and learning things about myself, but I feel like I don't have their support as much as I used to. Help! -- NEEDS SUPPORT IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR NEEDS SUPPORT: What your mother may not realize is that children usually know they are gay long before they find the courage to talk about it. Young people who receive negative messages about what it means to be gay are -- not surprisingly -- less likely to be open about their sexuality because they don't want to disappoint or be negatively judged.
You might be able to talk more effectively with your parents if you contact PFLAG and get some information. This is an organization whose mission is to help LGBTQ people and their families build bridges of understanding. The website is pflag.org.
DEAR ABBY: I have a problem saying no. I live 45 minutes from work, and because I'm a friendly person, people constantly ask me to give them rides. Today, two co-workers who live nowhere near me asked for rides home. (I already gave one a lift to work.) Another asked me to take him to the grocery store. I like being helpful, but this happens all the time and it's too much. Tonight I'll be more than an hour late getting home.
I was raised with a strong sense of moral obligation and good manners, but I'm tired and just want to go home. I feel guilty for even thinking this. What do I do? -- YES-GIRL IN THE EAST
DEAR YES-GIRL: You should not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Saying no does not make you a bad person.
There are ways to get the message across without seeming heartless. One would be to tell the truth -- that you are too tired, you have something else planned or you don't want to be an hour late getting home. While it may seem uncomfortable in the beginning, with practice you will find it empowering.
DEAR ABBY: How do you deal with family members who always insist they are right and you are wrong? If their beliefs are 180 degrees different from your own, must you just grit your teeth and keep your mouth shut? How do you get them to respect you for the adult you are (they are only five years older), or is it even worth it? -- FUMING IN FLORIDA
DEAR FUMING: Sometimes the wiser course of action is to win the war by forgoing the battle. With people like this, steer the conversation toward subjects you can agree upon. If you can manage that, family harmony will become easier to achieve, and respect will follow.
DEAR ABBY: My middle-aged younger sister is 12 months into a midlife crisis. She has divorced her husband and abdicated her role as a mother, preferring instead to be a buddy to her teenage sons. She has started sleeping around, smoking pot and drinking -- a lot. Needless to say, our family is very concerned.
This behavior is nothing like her. When she does take our calls, she lies about what she's doing. We have caught her doing it, and so far we have just held our tongues. I'm unsure whether confronting her about her behavior would help or hurt her.
I love my sister and always will, but I have lost a lot of respect for her, and our relationship has been damaged. Should I tell her I know she is acting reckless and being dishonest? -- HELPING OR HURTING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR HELPING OR HURTING: Yes! By remaining silent you are enabling her to continue.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ken," decided to have his mother move in with us without first asking me how I felt about it. I don't want to be insensitive. I know she has nowhere else to go. The problem is, she's the most domineering person I have ever known. If she enters a room and doesn't like a picture, she'll move it or get rid of it without asking.
When I tried to warn my husband that this wouldn't be easy, his response was, "You just don't like my mother." I do like her, but I don't know that I can live with her. I feel like my marriage is hanging by a thread. Any advice? -- SERIOUSLY STRESSED-OUT
DEAR SERIOUSLY STRESSED: Your mother-in-law is acting like YOUR house is HER house. Set her straight. And if your husband tells you, "You just don't like my mother," tell him that it isn't that you don't like her; it's that you don't like the way she's acting and you will no longer tolerate it.
DEAR ABBY: When is it appropriate to correct someone's spelling and/or punctuation errors? Our pastor writes a message in our church's monthly newsletter and invariably makes several grammar or spelling mistakes. The church secretary also makes mistakes in our weekly bulletin and never catches the pastor's errors. In addition, the day care personnel at our church make mistakes in the written lessons for the children.
I have offered to proofread for our pastor and secretary, but they never take me up on my offer. I grew up in a time when accuracy mattered, but nowadays many folks think that if one can make oneself understood, that is good enough. I'm interested in what you would advise. -- FUSSY WRITER IN MARYLAND
DEAR WRITER: You were kind to volunteer to edit the bulletins and newsletters, but you can't force the pastor and church secretary to accept your generous offer. However, because young children model the behavior of the adults around them, my advice to the parents would be to remove theirs from any program in which the day care personnel are so poorly educated they can't use proper English.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband for 22 years. We've been together for 26. We've had our ups and downs, and separated for three months back in 2008, but we went to marriage counseling and got back together.
I have recently realized that my husband is an accomplished liar and has been from day one. To top it off, he lies about stupid things, which makes me wonder what important things he's lying about. When I express my feelings about this, he swears he will never lie again, blah blah blah -- and damn if I don't catch him again! Is this marriage doomed because he can't stop lying? And how do I trust anything he ever says to me? -- UNTRUSTING IN MARYLAND
DEAR UNTRUSTING: Successful marriages are based on trust and communication. Yours is in serious trouble.
Most people who lie do so because they are trying to make themselves look better or are not proud of whatever it is they are attempting to cover up. However, those who lie about "stupid" things may be compulsive liars who can't control the impulse. If your spouse falls into this category, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help him overcome his problem, but there are no guarantees.
DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother, my daughter, her boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Las Vegas. Because of the costs involved, we are considering sharing a room with two queen beds. The plan would be for me and my mother to share one bed, and my daughter and her boyfriend to share the other.
My wife thinks this is weird -- that my mother and I should share a bed. I explained that it will be a queen bed, and I don't understand why she thinks it is strange. This will save us around $1,000 that a second room would cost. What do you think? -- RALPH IN OHIO
DEAR RALPH: Is saving the money more important to you than privacy, comfort and propriety? Your wife may have been thinking along those lines when she suggested the "boys" sleep with the boys and the "girls" sleep together. Before rendering an opinion, I'd have to know what your daughter, her boyfriend and your mother think about this arrangement, because unless you all agree, it might make more sense to request a cot or bring an air mattress with you.
P.S. If one of you gets lucky in Vegas, maybe you can afford a second room.
DEAR ABBY: After years of nagging about thank-you notes, this is how I'm encouraging my younger family members to acknowledge gifts: We have the child create a big thank-you note or draw a picture, hold it with a big smile along with the gift and take a photo, which we send electronically.
We made a rule that they can't play with the gift until the thank-you is done, and even little folks understand it. It's fun and immediate. They usually get a quick note of appreciation back, and the giver gets a keepsake of the occasion. -- NEW AGE GRANDMA
DEAR GRANDMA: That's a wonderful idea, not only because it utilizes technology, but also because it requires SOME effort on the part of the little ones. Good for you.
DEAR ABBY: My 25-year-old niece still lives at home. She works full time and attends college online. She's a hard worker who doesn't do drugs or engage in risky behavior.
I pay her a bonus for every A she earns, and I also pay for her health insurance. While I gladly pay the college bonuses, I have misgivings about continuing to pay for her health insurance, even though I can afford it. She doesn't make much money at her job, but she goes out to restaurants and bars often, attends concerts and takes trips out of state three or four times a year.
When I was her age, I also went to college, worked a low-paying job and lived with my mother. Although I went out with friends often, I never wasted money on those other things -- especially vacations. Should I continue paying her health insurance for her? I don't know if I'm being judgmental or enabling irresponsible behavior. -- PROTECTIVE IN HOUSTON
DEAR PROTECTIVE: You are obviously a generous person, but yes, you are being judgmental. Your niece is working, studying and living a clean and healthy life. You had a social life when you were your niece's age; you should not begrudge her having hers.
Going to restaurants, bars and concerts is normal for a young woman her age. However, if you prefer not to subsidize the vacations because you feel they are excessive, discuss your feelings with her before deciding what to do.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have lived like nomads for the last few years. We have bought, sold and moved many times for all sorts of silly reasons. Our 5-year-old daughter finally started school, yet we don't feel at home here. We now realize buying and selling may not be for us, so we are renting, but we still aren't happy.
We moved here to be close to my oldest and dearest friend, whose kids are now grown, and to my sister, who hardly talks to us or sees us. My husband's sister and her husband's family love us and treat us well. They have suggested we should move by them. They have kids our daughter's age. The only issue is possibly not finding a good home or school. Private school could be an option.
Would another move be bad? Should we make a final move before our daughter gets vested in school and friends? It would put us within walking distance to several families we spend a lot of time with and who love us very much. We are afraid of judgment from everyone. Please help us sort it out. -- HOPEFUL NOMADS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR NOMADS: Forget about the judgments. You will survive them. The older your daughter becomes, the more difficult moving away from the people she knows will be for her. If you are going to move to an environment more compatible for you, your husband and your daughter, the time to do it is now, so her education and social relationships will not be as disrupted as they would be when she is older.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a widowed senior who has been dating a very kind man, "Ben," for three years. He's retired; I am not. He does things for and with me, and we enjoy traveling together.
The problem is, Ben usually starts drinking about 3 p.m. at the neighborhood bar. I'm welcome to join him, but I prefer to work at my job or volunteer in the community. By the grace of God, Ben has made it home safely every night, but I'm afraid he will eventually hurt someone.
My son came home for a month because of a job change, and tonight he found Ben passed out in the front yard. I told my son I was sorry, and he said not to be, but he does not want his family -- my grandchildren -- around when Ben is like this.
I am so embarrassed. I would miss this relationship, but I'm wondering if you think I should end it. -- MISSING THE GOOD IN HIM
DEAR MISSING THE GOOD: It must have been clear to you for some time that Ben has a serious drinking problem that needs to be addressed. Whether you should end the relationship depends upon whether he is willing to admit that he has a problem and is willing to do something about it.
Because Ben's drinking is now affecting you and, by extension, your family, it's time to confront him and give him a choice -- get help or find another lady friend. There are Alcoholics Anonymous groups worldwide and in almost every community. Steer Ben in that direction, and while you're at it, locate the nearest Al-Anon group for yourself. You will find it both sympathetic and helpful. These groups are as close as your phone directory or your computer. Visit al-anon.org.
DEAR ABBY: I recently utilized a national ancestry company to determine my heritage. I also provided kits to my adult children thinking it would be a fun exercise we all could share. Unfortunately, my good deed came with unexpected consequences.
According to the results, my youngest son isn't related to me. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, my ex-wife had an affair 25 years ago.
What do I do now? Should I confront my ex to verify the affair and learn the identity of my son's father? How do we tell my son? Should we? How do we handle our families? Keep it a secret? I would appreciate your guidance. -- UNKNOWN FAMILY TREE
DEAR UNKNOWN: Before making accusations or announcements, it is important that you determine the accuracy of the test to make absolutely sure the results are conclusive. If a second test verifies the first, your son should be informed because he has a right to know his familial medical history -- and HE should talk to his mother about who his biological father is.
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