DEAR ABBY: My widowed mother-in-law, "Minnie," works full time as a trucker, traveling around the U.S. She doesn't have a home of her own since she lives on the road. My husband and I live in a small one-bedroom apartment. When she's here for holidays or family functions, she always sleeps on our couch.
At first I didn't mind once or twice for holidays, but since my niece was born, Minnie wants to be home more to visit with her. My husband's brother has a large home and plenty of space, but Minnie never stays there because she doesn't like my sister-in-law. Minnie is also irresponsible about letting us know when she's coming and how long she will be staying. One night can turn into a week.
I have had many conversations and some blowout fights with my husband over this issue. He's the older brother and feels guilty about asking her to stay at a hotel. My sister-in-law doesn't help the situation. She sabotages holidays and events to ensure Minnie won't feel comfortable staying there. I don't know how I will manage to get through the holidays this year. Help! -- DREADING IT IN THE EAST
DEAR DREADING: Blowout fights with your husband are detrimental to your marriage. Because he appears to be unable to summon the backbone to have an honest conversation with his mother, I guess it's up to you.
Explain to Minnie that the current arrangement isn't working. Tell her twice-a-year visits for holidays and family functions were manageable, but in the future, if she's unwilling to stay in her younger son's home, she should arrange to stay at a hotel or motel for those "extra" visits.
DEAR ABBY: Some of my extended family members have become vegan. When they come to my home, I make sure to have appropriate food for them, in addition to nonvegan food for others. When I am invited to their homes for a celebration, they offer only vegan selections. No one is allowed to bring nonvegan or meat-based dishes to their home.
It has reached the point that I no longer want to go there when a meal is involved. I have tried talking to them about this, but their reply is, "No meat allowed in our home." I now leave before mealtime because I don't like a lot of their dishes.
Is it common for vegans to prohibit guests from ever taking other food into their home? Thanks for any light you can shed on this. -- MEAT LOVER IN HOUSTON
DEAR MEAT LOVER: People become vegans for a variety of reasons. Some do because they feel it is unethical to kill animals for food. Others do it because they feel raising animals for slaughter is harmful to the planet. People also become vegans for health reasons.
Individuals who adopt this way of life often feel as your relatives do, and that's their privilege. If it impinges on your freedom or limits your enjoyment of these celebrations, forgo them and either participate in get-togethers that don't include food or go to an accommodating restaurant.
DEAR ABBY: I am a woman in my 30s with a good head on my shoulders, but I have a dilemma. I recently became Wiccan, and I'm hiding my new religion from my fiance.
I was raised Protestant but have drifted away from Christianity. My fiance was raised Catholic but no longer practices. He's not actively involved in any religion, but I'm worried about how he will react to learning that I'm now a "witch," which is just a broad term for anyone who follows the Wiccan spiritual path. I don't want him to think I've lost my mind, but I also can't keep hiding my beliefs from him. Secrets are never a positive thing in a relationship, but I'm worried about how this news will be received. Please help. -- WEST VIRGINIA WICCAN
DEAR WICCAN: I agree this isn't a secret you should keep. If it were me, I would start disclosing the information slowly, sharing Wiccan literature, telling him I found it fascinating, and sharing a few of the principles with him. Refrain from hitting him over the head with an announcement of your conversion and it will be less shocking.
DEAR ABBY: I have a new boss. He is a very nice man. With the Christmas season approaching, how do I communicate to him that I do not want to exchange gifts? I don't want him to feel obligated to give me anything. It may be presumptuous of me to think he may want to. I believe this is his first supervisory position, and he may not even think about gifts.
We have very little contact. I have been the receptionist for our building for many years and do not require much supervision. We are in different parts of the building, and he stops by occasionally to see how I'm doing. My previous boss, a woman I reported to for many years, and I would exchange gifts because we were friends. -- CORDIAL IN TEXAS
DEAR CORDIAL: I do not recommend mentioning gifts to your new boss. It is entirely possible that he won't be gifting you anything this Christmas. However, on the chance that he might, keep a little something in your desk drawer just in case. A small, prepackaged fruitcake might be nice. You can always use it as a doorstop or a hockey puck if he doesn't drop by with a gift in hand.
DEAR ABBY: Why do women stop having sex after marriage? This is my second marriage. We have been married two years, and to date we have had sex three times. Before marriage we had a great sex life, but the day I said "I do" it stopped. I'm not the only man who is faced with this problem. -- NEED AN ANSWER
DEAR NEED: Something is wrong with this picture. Not all women stop having sex after marriage. The two of you are long overdue for a frank conversation because this isn't fair to you. Could your wife's lack of interest be medical or emotional? Do you get along otherwise? Did this happen with your first wife, too? If the answer to that question is yes, your technique may need some polishing, or your wives may not have enjoyed sex before or after your weddings.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I recently celebrated our first anniversary and have decided we're ready to start a family. Our first month of trying has not been successful. My newly engaged cousin has just announced her wedding date. If our second month of trying is successful, my due date will fall just two days prior to their wedding.
I'm extremely close with my family, especially this particular cousin because we are so close in age. The thought of missing out on such a special day for them makes me upset. Plus, if I should go into labor the day of the wedding, not only would my husband and I be unable to attend but neither would my parents or sister because they would want to be by my side. That seems unfair to my cousin. Although I know she would understand, I would feel guilty.
When I brought up the idea of taking the month off from trying so the dates don't overlap, I knew my husband would be upset. But he wasn't just upset, he was furious! He told me I was being completely unreasonable and that it was the most absurd thing he's ever heard. (Mind you, he can be a little dramatic when he's upset.)
All I want to do is start trying again the next month so I would be due the month after the wedding. I never said I didn't want a baby, just that I want the opportunity to share in the joy of my cousin's big day. Am I being insensitive? -- TIMING IT RIGHT IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR TIMING: I don't think you are being insensitive. I do think you are overthinking this. Most people do not conceive on their first try. Sometimes it takes several tries -- or more. Pregnant women do not always deliver on schedule. So PLEASE, rather than worry about your cousin's wedding, let things progress in their own time. If you do, you will have less drama in your life to contend with.
DEAR ABBY: My 40-year-old son has been in a volatile on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who has physically and emotionally abused him repeatedly. He's an Iraq War veteran with issues of his own, including a previous marriage and messy divorce from a narcissistic woman. They share custody of two grade school-age children. The current woman has grown children, plus a pre-teen boy (with issues also). The last time they split up, my husband made it clear that she would never be welcome in our home again because of her violent temper. We don't condone that behavior.
Our son has now decided he thinks he "loves her." He wants us to give our blessing, including having her in our home and being one big happy family. We are sure this "reunion" will come with her assurances that she has changed, and it will never happen again.
Abby, we want our son to be happy, but we recognize that a leopard doesn't change her spots. We also don't want our young grandchildren in a toxic environment again. What should we do? Please don't tell me he needs to go to counseling because he says he is. Help! -- SEEING CLEARLY IN NEW YORK
DEAR SEEING: When you stated that your son is asking you for your blessing, including having this woman in your home and being one big happy family, did he mean LIVING there with you? If that's not the case, you can bless it, but your answer should be no if it means they will live under your roof. It would be healthier for all of you if they have living arrangements of their own. That way, you can see her only when she is on her good behavior, and if she backslides, the drama won't be in your home. The added bonus is that your son will have a refuge if he needs it. (I'd give anything to know how his therapist views this.)
DEAR ABBY: This may seem like a trivial problem, but it has our little group of friends on the verge of breaking up. We meet monthly. There are seven of us.
Two of them don't want to exchange birthday presents when one or two of us have a birthday because they say they can't afford it. By the way, their lifestyle is quite lavish. The rest of us enjoy giving small gifts (and they are small -- less than $10), or a gift card for the restaurant we are meeting at that night. We have told them a card is fine.
They are now threatening to stop coming unless we stop giving gifts because it makes them feel bad. It seems like they don't want to make the effort, and we feel like we are being held hostage. What's the solution? We love these ladies and don't want them to stop coming. Christmas is approaching, and five of us want to exchange presents, but they don't. Thanks for your opinion. It will matter to all of us. -- TRADITIONALIST IN FLORIDA
DEAR TRADITIONALIST: Because these ladies are uncomfortable with the idea of exchanging gifts on special occasions, they should be told their presence is not expected when those exchanges happen -- specifically Christmas, birthdays, etc. There will still be plenty of other times to get together -- and that way no one will be uncomfortable. Under no circumstances should you allow them to dictate what the rest of you do!
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been together for 30 years, married for 20. We have two sons living at home, a 20-year-old who works full-time and a 17-year-old who is graduating from high school in the spring.
I have been offered a transfer to Australia by my employer -- a transfer I had asked for. When we discussed it in the past, everyone was all for it. My oldest can likely stay with the multinational hotel chain he works for now, and I can get my youngest a decent career in my field of work as there is a tremendous shortage of skilled labor in Australia.
Now my wife tells me she can't leave her family, especially her father, who has Parkinson's. I have told her she can expect to return every summer to our condo on the beach and an additional two trips per year.
Abby, I thought our vows meant we would be together forever, wherever. My employer will soon begin the process of opening the Australian office, a process I will be part of and likely train the new hire. I am bitter and resentful toward my wife, and it is affecting my attitude toward her. I love her, but I am struggling to get over the fact she is denying me a very lucrative opportunity. Advice? -- LOSING OUT IN CANADA
DEAR LOSING OUT: It's time for you and your wife to put your heads together and work out a solution. By that I mean you should accept the lucrative business opportunity you have been offered, AND your wife can take care of her father as long as she needs to. Unless his condition is critical, she can visit you and your sons periodically so it shouldn't put too much strain on your marriage. I hope you will consider it because the kind of resentment you are feeling now can destroy a marriage.
DEAR ABBY: I moved in with my boyfriend, "Greg," three years ago into the tiny but very economical house he rents. It's cheaper than all other rentals in our area and allows us to save for a home of our own one day. However, after many months, I have discovered to my dismay that our landlord is the mother of his ex-girlfriend. And the ex is acting manager of the property we live on! This means that, for as long as I've lived here, Greg's ex and her mom have been in frequent contact with him and are an inescapable part of our lives.
Greg gets along fine with them and doesn't want to move because of high rents elsewhere, but I'm very uncomfortable with the awkwardness of our living situation. Am I being too sensitive, or should my boyfriend never have lived there in the first place? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Now, now ... let's keep our eye on the goal line. Your boyfriend's objective (and yours) is to save enough money to eventually own a place of your own. His ex and her mother are a means to an end. It would be a big mistake not to recognize that they could be charging far more for your lodgings. Concentrate on that and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
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DEAR ABBY: I recently hosted a large family for a week in our home. On our last day together, the mother asked if she could run "a quick load" of laundry. I said OK, figuring she might be running low on unmentionables.
Abby, she did FIVE large loads of laundry and spent half of our last day together folding everything up and packing their bags for home. I wouldn't deny anyone a quick load, but I think she took advantage of me. I was very disappointed that our last day together was wasted doing laundry. Is this a "thing" now? Your thoughts, please. -- HUNG OUT TO DRY IN ARIZONA
DEAR HUNG OUT: You were trying to be helpful, and the woman did take advantage of your generosity by mischaracterizing her intentions. If, however, you had other plans for the last morning of the visit, when you saw her start her second (or third) load, you should have spoken up and drawn the line.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a 14-year marriage, but there has always been another woman, "Emily," I have thought about almost daily the whole time. My wife and I have just turned 40. We have no kids, but we have a dog. I always thought I would want kids, and we tried half-heartedly, but there is no real intimacy to this day. I kiss her goodbye in the morning and, for years, that's been it.
Emily is all in on a relationship with me still to this day. We had a great relationship with great sex, and I miss all of that. I'm struggling about the right thing to do, partly because I know the pain this will cause.
My wife and I still have good times together with friends, but when we're home, it's like we're just best friends with no benefits. One of the last times we had sex, she ended it abruptly. The flame I felt for her is gone. I feel like I should go the other direction because she wants kids and still loves me deeply after all these years. Please advise. -- WRESTLING WITH IT IN WISCONSIN
DEAR WRESTLING: Clearly you have never stopped talking to Emily. Quit "wrestling" and talk with your WIFE. She may have ended your last sexual encounter because it was physically painful or because she no longer feels emotionally connected to you.
The person who can help you determine what to do next is the woman to whom you are married. Whether this marriage is salvageable is debatable, but this I do know: A healthy marriage takes TWO committed individuals, and in this case, one of them (you) has been missing in action.
DEAR ABBY: I am an older woman who finally got fed up with my husband's cellphone addiction. Since he would no longer speak to me but spent all his time scrolling on his device, I went out and bought a realistic-looking baby doll. When he pulled out his cell, I pulled out my doll. I talked to it, fiddled with its buttons and carried it everywhere. He finally yelled at me, "It's not real!" to which I replied, "It's real; it's just not alive. LIKE YOUR CELLPHONE."
This final scene was played out in the dining room of our country club, which was filled with members. The phone and "baby" stayed in the car after that. We laugh about it now, and she's resting comfortably in her carrier, just in case she's ever needed again. -- THOUGHT I'D SHARE THIS
DEAR THOUGHT: I hesitate to endorse implied threats in marital disagreements, but your solution worked -- brilliantly. So who am I to argue with success? Congratulations!
DEAR ABBY: What is your opinion about elderly parents who no longer drive having to pay their children to drive them to appointments, grocery, etc.? Think of all the times parents drove them when they were growing up. -- RETURNING THE FAVOR
DEAR RETURNING THE FAVOR: Most adult children with a memory would never dream of asking to be paid for driving their elderly parents. A child who would do this must be desperate for money. In my opinion, because they are paying for it anyway, the parents should make other arrangements for transportation.
DEAR ABBY: My husband loaned a "dear friend" some money a year ago. She has yet to pay back a penny. When I ask him about it, he gets mad and tells me it's none of my business. I have hinted to her about some large bills that we have to pay, to no avail.
Other than that, my husband and I have a great marriage and love each other very much. I just don't like her taking advantage of his generosity. I know taking care of his friends gives him pleasure, but he has been burned before and I can see it happening again. I find it hard to ignore. What do I do? -- SICK OF IT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR SICK OF IT: I wish you had mentioned whether you work and the money your soft-touch hubby gave his friend was partly earned by you. If that's the case, I don't blame you for being upset.
While I'm not sure you can prevent your husband from doing this, I do think you are within your rights to insist that before he does it he discuss it with you. If he will do that, perhaps the two of you can find an alternative for the person other than giving out money.
DEAR ABBY: My son passed away unexpectedly a little over eight years ago. He was 21. At the time, he had been dating a very nice young lady. We kept in touch for a while after the funeral -- letters and emails mostly, as I had moved out of state -- but things gradually tapered off.
I have been able to keep somewhat informed about her life because of the magic of social media and mutual friends she shared with my son who still contact me occasionally. I recently learned she's being married within the next two weeks. I am wondering if it would be wrong or weird of me to send a congratulatory card to the happy couple. I wish only continued happiness for her and her future husband. -- WISHING HAPPINESS
DEAR WISHING: I see nothing wrong or weird about sending her a nice card, and when you do, be sure to tell her not only that you wish her a happy future, but also that she will always have a special place in your heart.
DEAR ABBY: Would it be appropriate for someone to tell someone else's children to stop doing something dangerous if the parent is not around? I'm talking about kids holding scissors the wrong way or running with them, pushing others, etc.
My children are in their teens now and know that such behavior is wrong. If it were the other way around, I would be grateful if someone cared enough to tell my kids that a behavior is wrong and/or dangerous. -- GLAD IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR GLAD: How else would the children know if they weren't warned? To speak up would be an act of kindness, particularly if they were doing something that could cause harm to themselves or others.
DEAR ABBY: What is the etiquette when eating at a restaurant where a piano player is performing? I don't mean the "bar scene"-type piano player who wants the crowd to sing along, but more of a mid- to upscale type of place.
There's a restaurant like this in my town -- the only one with a piano. On one special occasion when we were there, the piano player was playing "Misty" and a woman sitting nearby with her party wanted to make herself heard over him. She began talking very loudly to her group while he was playing the song. I thought it was tacky, and if I had been sitting near her, I would have shushed her up.
Isn't it polite to wait until the piano player is finished before talking loudly at your table? Whatever happened to behaving with a little class in restaurants? -- DEANNA IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR DEANNA: The musician in that restaurant was there to provide mood music for the diners. If they chose to talk while he was playing, it was their privilege. The woman may have raised her voice because someone in her party had a hearing problem. For you to have taken it upon yourself to "shush her up" would have been rude, and for your sake, I'm glad you refrained from doing it.
DEAR ABBY: Am I overreacting to my husband's request that I take down photos of my mom and grandparents when his mom visits? They are displayed in our guest bedroom. I think his request was rude. I wonder if his mother even cares or if he just feels guilty. It's my house, too. -- RELUCTANT IN TEXAS
DEAR RELUCTANT: Rather than remove your family photos, why not compromise by adding a couple of pictures of your husband's mother, too? I'm sure she would be pleased to see them. Problem solved.
DEAR ABBY: I have a crush on a guy I work with. I'm 19, and he's 26. He has a kid, which actually doesn't bother me. I love kids and have taken care of them most of my life. My problem is he has this ex who wants to get back together with him. They broke up because she was staying out all night and cheating.
He used to flirt with me and text me all the time and offer me his hoodie. Now she's sort of back in the picture and he ignores me and doesn't return my texts. But when we see each other he starts flirting again, and we just click. We make sense.
I guess my question is, should I tell him how I feel before it's too late or just keep it to myself? Should I risk everything and go for it? -- UNCERTAIN IN NEW YORK
DEAR UNCERTAIN: Announce your feelings for the guy if you wish, but do not expect him to drop everything and rush to you. If he were interested in more than a workplace flirtation, he would be paying the same kind of attention to you that he did before. Because he isn't, you need to understand that he and his ex obviously have some unfinished business together, regardless of her history of infidelity. Set your sights on someone else.
DEAR ABBY: All my mom does is talk about work. If we are having a conversation, she links every topic to her work and her co-workers. It is alienating my sister and me. When we tell her things about our kids -- her grandkids -- she still relates it to work.
Another thing: She's constantly on her tablet for work or on Facebook. I live seven hours away from her. When we make the drive down, I don't want to watch her on her tablet. If we try to confront her on anything, all she does is cry.
Mom and I had a good relationship before she took that job. Now she's so negative that it's difficult to want to talk to her. Where do I even start? -- MISSING HER WHILE SHE'S HERE
DEAR MISSING: Rather than "confront" your mother, ask her what may have changed in her life since she took that job. Her focus may have shifted because that's the center of her activity. Conversations are two-way, and this may be all she feels she has to contribute on her end. As to her "hiding" behind Facebook rather than carry on a conversation with you, like many people, she may have become addicted to it and unable to tear herself away. However, you will never know unless you ask her calmly.
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