DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of four years recently admitted that he cheated on me six months ago. I was blindsided. Until the day he told me, I thought we shared everything. The hollowness and betrayal I feel is sometimes overwhelming.
He explained that at the time, he was dealing with substance issues and depression, which I was also unaware of. Both have worsened in recent months. How could I have been so blind?
To complicate things further, I have a 6-year-old son who has grown to love this man as a father because my ex-husband walked out on us when he was born. He has been an amazing role model for my son, and overall, a wonderful partner -- or so I thought.
He says he's heartbroken over the pain he's caused me. He recently started receiving treatment for his depression through medication and therapy, and he has begged me to go to couples therapy to rebuild the trust that's been lost.
I was taught to believe that cheating is the end of a relationship, no ifs, ands or buts. I don't want to end the relationship, but I'm struggling with the decision because of what I was taught, especially when I confide in friends and they tell me to dump him.
I wish I knew what to do. I need an objective opinion. Can a relationship survive such a betrayal? Can we be happy again? -- HOLLOW IN NEW YORK
DEAR HOLLOW: The answers to your questions are yes and yes -- especially if both partners are fully committed and prepared to get couples therapy from a licensed professional. If you love this man and want to give this relationship a chance, quit confiding in your friends and start talking with the therapist. Your boyfriend is remorseful, he is also in treatment, and he is trying his best to get better and work things out. Please give him the opportunity to do that because, if you do, your story may have a happy ending.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 26-year-old single woman living alone during quarantine. I have no family who live in-state.
Admittedly, I've struggled with loneliness during quarantine, and my family knows this. For weeks, I have been fending off my dad's attempts to fly cross-country and visit. I don't think it's safe and have told him no.
Today, he told me that he is making plane reservations, it doesn't matter what I say or want. I know this comes from a place of love, but he is completely disregarding my feelings, especially since I have been extremely careful in quarantine and he hasn't been. Is there a way I can keep this visit from happening? -- HOME ALONE IN RHODE ISLAND
DEAR HOME ALONE: Yes, there is. Tell your father plainly you are afraid of being exposed to the virus because he hasn't been as careful about exposure as you have been. If he still insists, tell him he must bring with him proof that he has tested negative, and even then you won't see him unless you are both masked, gloved and practicing social distancing. He should also not plan on staying with you.
If that doesn't discourage him, when he arrives, see him outside and remain 6 feet apart in case he has been exposed at the airport or on the plane.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married a little over a year. My wife took a trip to Florida to get some things out of storage, and turned it into a two-week vacation. She's now traveling back with the in-laws, which I wasn't expecting.
Yesterday she announced she doesn't want to talk to anyone, including me, and will only text for the next three days during the trip because she's too tired. I feel rejected and like yesterday's news because she hardly calls me and she almost forgot to say goodnight. I don't think this is healthy for our relationship, and I have separation anxiety to boot. Is this normal? -- NEWLYWED GUY IN IOWA
DEAR GUY: Something is going on with your wife, and unless she is usually this uncommunicative, her unwillingness to talk with you is not normal. Do not pressure her or make her feel guilty in order to alleviate your separation anxiety. Give her the time she said she needs to decompress and get her thoughts together. When she and her parents arrive, you will have plenty of time to clear the air.
DEAR ABBY: I am disabled and live about 2,000 miles from my best friend. For months now she has spoken about her plans to have a vow renewal ceremony on her 10th wedding anniversary. Although I am on a fixed income, I have been saving every dime so I can attend.
As it turns out, I'm not invited. She's requested online that everyone who has received their invitation and hasn't sent their R.S.V.P. should, so she'll know how many people to tell the caterer to prepare for. My invitation didn't get lost in the mail or in cyberspace. I was just not invited.
I am extremely hurt by this because she has always claimed that I am her best friend. How should I handle this? -- UNINVITED IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR UNINVITED: You have a right to feel hurt. "Best" friends don't treat each other this way. Handle it by asking her why you were left off the guest list. She may not have invited you because she knows you are on a fixed income and assumed you couldn't attend. However, if that's not the reason for the omission, then you may not have had as close a relationship as you assumed.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were invited by an older friend to lunch on his patio, while observing the social distancing rules. Before we left his home, we thanked him profusely as we greatly appreciated the visit, especially given our lack of social interaction during the pandemic.
When we arrived home, I wrote a thank-you note and put it in the mail. However, I'm wondering if I should also have sent an immediate text or e-mail message to our friend. Are there new rules that cover immediate electronic communication vs. old-fashioned thank-you notes? -- WONDERING IN ALABAMA
DEAR WONDERING: Many people use immediate electronic communication as a way to avoid the "hassle" and expense of penning a handwritten thank-you note. However, making the time and effort to show your appreciation the traditional way rather than doing both wasn't a faux pas, so stop worrying.
DEAR ABBY: What do you say to a guy who resurfaces 10 months after our first encounter and wants to know if I want to "see" him again? He didn't mention going to dinner or a movie or anything -- just seeing each other every 10 days or so. -- UNDECIDED IN FLORIDA
DEAR UNDECIDED: I'm not you, but this is what I would say: "What do you have in mind? A hike? A picnic at the beach? A socially-distanced dinner?" And if his answer isn't something more than getting together for sex, I'd pass.
DEAR ABBY: I would like to address a problem I've never seen in your column. A lot of people have living wills but most don't remember what's in them.
My wife went to the hospital for a routine procedure that required anesthesia. After three hours of what was supposed to be a one-hour procedure, a nurse came out, said there was "a problem" and took me back to the recovery room. My wife was writhing on the bed and kept rasping, "I can't breathe!" Six nurses tried to put an oxygen mask over her face, but she kept fighting them, trying to rip it off. I was in total shock.
I didn't know how to help her, so I asked the anesthesiologist standing there to do something, and he said her living will was a DNR (do not resuscitate). She remained in cardiac and respiratory distress for eight hours before a pulmonologist was mercifully called and she was put on a ventilator.
I went home and pulled out our living wills. Hers stated, and I quote, "the individual so named must be terminally ill or permanently unconscious." I had no idea. She was neither of those things. If I'd had a copy of the living will WITH me, I'm sure she would have immediately been put on a ventilator. I lost her six months later, on Christmas morning.
I urge everyone who goes to the hospital for any procedure to make sure the person accompanying them has a copy of their advance directive. I still feel guilty. Her outcome could have been so much different, and she might have lived much longer. -- GRIEVING HUSBAND
DEAR GRIEVING HUSBAND: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your wife. Suffering as much pain as you are over her death, please don't torture yourself further over what you "would have, could have, should have" done. I appreciate your taking the time to share this important information with me and my readers. Your letter serves as a reminder that all end-of-life documents should be reviewed regularly to be sure they reflect current thinking. Thank you.
DEAR ABBY: Five years ago, my older brother had an accident and needed to live at my parents' house while he recovered. He brought along his 4-year-old dog, "Pepper." The dog needed to be on a special diet.
My father, who is a major alcoholic, enjoyed having Pepper there, but because he is an alcoholic, you can't tell him anything he doesn't want to hear. Because my brother had been seriously hurt and was in a hospital bed and wheelchair, my father fed the dog. Despite my brother's pleas, my father fed Pepper whatever he wanted -- including chocolate. It made Pepper very sick, and he was dead within three months. The vet said it was because of what my father fed him.
My brother blew up at my father. He called him every name in the book, concluding with the comment that my father was a filthy drunk who deserved to die in the gutter. Despite his injuries, my brother left the house and has never spoken to us again. Regrettably, my mother and I were both dependent on my father and didn't want to anger him, so we took his side.
A month ago, I decided to track my brother down. He is now married and lives out of the country with his wife, daughter and in-laws. My brother told me he's sorry for not staying in touch with me, but he no longer wishes to speak to our parents. My mother is pressing me for information, but I am afraid to tell her and my father much of anything. Should I tell my parents about my brother? -- ABANDONED SISTER
DEAR SISTER: I'm guessing your parents wouldn't be pressing you for information if you hadn't revealed to them that you found your brother. If that's the case, that was a mistake. If you must reveal anything, tell them your brother is well and happy, but hasn't changed his feelings about them and still wants no contact.
DEAR ABBY: I just received a brief, friendly email from my husband's grandmother. In it she asked me if our newest addition was "a good baby." That phrase is a pet peeve of mine.
When she was talking about how my mother-in-law wasn't a good baby, I told her that all babies are good babies. I may not be as upset as I am by her using those words if she wasn't terrible with children (e.g., overly strict, too-high expectations) and if she didn't have a knack for getting into fights with and complaining about nearly everyone.
I want to respond to her email, but I can't bring myself to agree with the premise that the possibility exists that my infant, or any infant for that matter, could be anything other than a good baby. I also don't want to start a fight with her that would seem petty, and I don't want to blow off her email. What should I do? -- INCENSED IN INDIANA
DEAR INCENSED: In the interest of whatever family harmony is left intact in "Granny's" wake, limit the drama and give her a brief reply that doesn't refer to "good babies" -- something like, "It was good to hear from you." Period.
DEAR ABBY: How may I delicately encourage my delightful European boyfriend to wear deodorant? I am not the only one who has noticed. He is otherwise very hygienic. -- HOLDING MY NOSE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR HOLDING: Consider approaching the subject this way: "You know, 'Jacques,' here in the United States, we have some 'peculiar' standards of personal hygiene" ... then explain what they entail. Yes, body odors are "natural," but not if they knock someone over from four feet away.
DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Cynthia," and I are a middle-aged couple who have been married four years. Shortly after our wedding, she suffered a stroke during a heart transplant. After she returned home from the hospital, a "friend" told her I was having an affair (I wasn't). Without telling me why, Cynthia threw me out of the house and returned to a distant state to be near her family. She had most of her belongings shipped there.
After I presented proof of my innocence a year later, we reconciled. The first couple of years of marriage were chaotic, and I know I wasn't perfect. But I did the best I could and stood by her throughout the medical ordeal.
Now, Cynthia is saying I should have to pay to have her items shipped back simply because I'm "the man." Abby, we have roughly the same income due to pensions. We have always kept our finances separate. I think she should pay to have her own items returned because she is the one who shipped them over there based on a lie. The money itself isn't the issue; it's the principle. I feel like this is a slap in the face. What do you think? -- MR. NICE GUY
DEAR MR. NICE GUY: You shouldn't have to pay for anything "because you're the man." You didn't cheat, and you aren't responsible for the fact that Cynthia overreacted and ran away the way she did.
You say that until now you have kept your finances separate because you each have your own incomes. My advice is to refuse to be manipulated. Your wife should pay to have her belongings returned, just as she paid to have them sent away without verifying whether the story was true.
DEAR ABBY: When I was a child, my dad told me, "If it weren't for you kids, there are so many things your mother and I could have." What I remember most was the intensity in his voice.
When I was old enough to work, I had a job after school so I could pay for my own clothes although my family wasn't poor. My father repeatedly let me know I was "lucky" I didn't get taken out of school to help support the family. When I graduated from high school at 17, I immediately went to work, and I paid for my board.
I married at 18 to get out of the house and paid for my own wedding. It never even occurred to me to ask for help. When I ended up divorced, I worked my way through college. When I graduated, my mother had to make my father go to my graduation because he didn't want to.
I have never been able to shake the feeling that I don't have a right to anything, and I'm not good enough. My other siblings are a mess, too. How do I shake this feeling of not being worthy? -- WORTHLESS IN FLORIDA
DEAR WORTHLESS: Children develop their feelings of self-worth from their parents. It appears at least one of yours was missing in action from the time you were little.
I don't have a magic wand, and I can't make the negative message your father implanted in your head disappear. On the upside, your upbringing made you independent, if only out of necessity. It may take help from a licensed mental health professional to make the scars from the way your father raised you fade.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 30 years. I still work full time, and my husband is now retired. We have had issues during most of our marriage, mainly concerning his not getting enough sex. A couple of times a week isn't sufficient.
In the past, he looked at porn a lot. He likes to take pictures of me that he stores on his phone, wants me to wear seductive clothing when we go out and demands that I send him naked pictures of myself from work. It makes me very uncomfortable, but he gets angry when I don't play his game.
He tells me often that I am no fun. When he gets angry, he says I am not sexy enough, too fat, not smart enough, etc. Yes, we have gone to marriage counseling in the past, and I have gone to counseling alone.
I've tried to learn to cope with living with him because I really don't want to divorce and destroy our family unit. We have three grown children, and in the past he bullied our only son for not being the best sports player he could be, even though he excelled.
I would like to retire soon, but now I wonder if he expects me to be his entertainment once I do. He has no hobbies. Do you have any advice? -- PLAYTHING IN TEXAS
DEAR PLAYTHING: I am amazed you were willing to tolerate your husband's criticism and abuse for the length of time you have. Not once in your letter did you mention a single positive trait in the man. You wish to keep together a family that your husband has eroded.
My first tidbit of advice is this: Go back to counseling! If you actually plan to live out your life this way, you will need every ounce of support you can pay for. My second tidbit would be to talk to a lawyer. You may want to keep the family unit intact, but the price seems exorbitant to me.
DEAR ABBY: I have a very close friend, "Sandy." Sandy and I talk about everything. She suffers from bi-polar disorder, which, for the most part, is controlled. However, she has hit a downswing.
A few months ago, she volunteered to start babysitting my child, one evening a week for a few hours. Sandy has never had the first complaint about my child or her behavior. Recently, she came over for a visit and unloaded on me. She said she finds my child annoying, that my child has a problem listening and constantly interrupts and complains. I was completely taken aback. Abby, I have never received complaints about my child's behavior, and over the course of the months, Sandy never indicated that something was wrong.
I have been a great friend to her, always welcoming her in my home and helping however I can. I don't know what to do. I am hurt and angry. I feel like she just barged in and insulted my kid. I'm no longer sure I want to remain close to her because of this. Is this characteristic of bi-polar disorder? How do I express my feelings to her without risking having her fly off the handle? Please help! -- HARSH WORDS IN THE SOUTH
DEAR HARSH WORDS: Not having met your child, I am not going to weigh in on whether what Sandy said was a slight. She may have been conveying something she thought you needed to know.
That said, because Sandy finds your child annoying, she should no longer babysit for you. All children interrupt at one point or another. They don't always behave perfectly. I hope you won't take what Sandy told you as an insult worthy of ending a longtime friendship over, particularly knowing the woman has mood swings and has been cycling down.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have a 45-year-old nephew who married for the first time two years ago. Before that, he was engaged to a woman I'll call Anita for two years. We assumed the reason for their breakup was she wanted children, and he did not. Last year, we attended Anita's wedding, as we are still friendly with her.
Our nephew was, and still is, furious with us for going. He claims "only 5% of people attend one's ex's wedding." He says we should have been loyal to him and abstained because Anita was a "vicious, lying, rumormonger."
He still emails and calls us, ranting and raving to the point that we might lose the relationship with him forever. We feel we did nothing wrong and were not obligated to get his permission to attend that wedding. What do you think? -- BIG SIN IN OREGON
DEAR "BIG SIN": I think you were right to attend Anita's wedding, in light of the fact that you are still friendly. You didn't need your nephew's permission. I seriously doubt his breakup with Anita had anything to do with whether she and your nephew disagreed about having children. More likely it had everything to do with the fact that your nephew is stubborn and behaves irrationally.
DEAR ABBY: My wife has no friends of her own and no hobbies. She's miserable most of the time, and happiness with her seems fleeting. I think she needs to see a counselor, but she refuses. In couples counseling, when the counselor pushed her on her issues, she quit.
I realize now that she is able to hide these issues from everyday acquaintances. But we have a 1-year-old daughter, and I'm certain that as she gets older, she'll see these issues as well. What do I do? -- LOOKING FORWARD IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR LOOKING: Whether your wife has postpartum depression or longstanding mental health issues I can't guess, but something is not right with her. I think it could benefit you greatly if YOU go back to that counselor, if only to ask for advice on how to handle this situation and provide as healthy an environment for your daughter to grow up in as possible.
DEAR ABBY: I am having issues with one of my good friends. When we hang out one-on-one, she's great. We laugh at just about everything and agree on a lot of different topics. However, when we hang out with other people, it's a different story. It seems as though all attention needs to be on her. It's not something I'm jealous of. It's more an uncomfortable feeling for everyone else. She's almost like a 4-year-old who needs constant attention and all eyes on her.
I enjoy hanging out with her when it's just us because I don't see this side of her, but in groups or even with one other person, it's like it's her world and we are just living in it. We are planning a trip soon, and I feel hesitant about being with her for long periods of time. -- WEARING THIN IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WEARING THIN: I'm puzzled as to why, knowing your friend behaves the way she does, you would be planning a trip with her. Unless it's a road trip -- just the two of you -- I think it could end the friendship. Considering who she is, the less time you spend in groups larger than two, the better.
DEAR ABBY: I'm an adoptive mother who has had more than my fair share of inappropriate comments directed at me and my children. They usually come from strangers or acquaintances. I'm about up to here with them, so I thought I would write you about etiquette for interacting with adoptive families:
Though we may stand out to you, we think of ourselves as a family like any other. Please do NOT start a conversation with us that has the sole purpose of pointing out the obvious. Remember that my children have ears.
Please do not ask questions in front of them about them or their adoption. Don't ask in private unless you are a close friend. Better yet, let me broach the subject.
Please do not ALWAYS comment on my daughters' hair. Yes, it is nicely braided and decorated with beautiful beads. But isn't there something else you can say about them? Maybe just once? And please don't talk in front of them about how hard it must be for me to do their hair. I LOVE braiding it.
Please don't say I am a saint for adopting them. I chose to adopt because I never wanted to have biological children. And please don't say how nice it is for me to love them so much. Why would you expect that I wouldn't love my children?
Please do not pity my children. They have amazing lives, are fiercely loved and have bright futures ahead. And please do not introduce me to others as someone "who has adopted two girls from Africa." Because my daughters are black does NOT mean they are from Africa! I would much prefer you simply say, "Anne has two 8-year-old daughters."
And last, please remember that you and I are both people who love our families, and we have more in common than you might think. -- ANNE FROM CALIFORNIA
DEAR ANNE: Thank you for a great letter. Sometimes well-meaning people simply don't think about the impact their words can have when they begin a conversation. I hope my readers will take your words to heart because they are valid.
DEAR ABBY: While separating photographs after my divorce from my wife, I found some photographs of relatives' and friends' weddings. Is there any protocol on what to do with them? In some cases, the marriages (and friendships) have ended, so I assume I should just dispose of them, correct? I will send my ex-wife any photos of her and her family, but none that include my family. Is this the right way to go?
We don't live in the same area anymore, and our families were never close. I would be interested to hear what you think should be done with family photos that include me, my ex-wife and our children. Should they go just to the children? I am in a new committed relationship, and I do not wish to keep any photos of my ex for any reason. Can you please help? -- NEEDS TO KNOW IN NEW YORK
DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: Send the family pictures to your children and instruct them to share them with your ex IF she would like to have them. If you still have a relationship with the friends and relatives, inform them that you found the photos and ask if they would like to have them. That would be the considerate thing to do.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married 30 years. I recently retired, and we are planning a cruise to Europe and a two-month stay, returning on the same cruise line. The cruise line is rather posh, and travelers are asked to "dress appropriately" -- which means, essentially, men should wear a jacket to dinner (no tie required).
My husband is balking at the idea he should have to wear a jacket on his vacation and now says he won't go. Abby, we have already invested several hundreds of dollars in deposits, so what do I do? I'd rather not spend 14 days at sea with a husband whining over wearing a jacket for 30 minutes a day and end up dining alone (we reserved a table for two so we wouldn't be stuck making small talk). We are cruising because he will not fly. -- TEXAS WIFE
DEAR TEXAS WIFE: You have already accommodated your husband by booking a cruise instead of flying. Could his problem be that his jackets no longer fit him? If that's the case, buy him one that does. However, if his objection is that he really doesn't want to GO, why not take your husband up on his offer to stay home and ask one of your girlfriends to accompany you? Then all three of you might have a better time.
DEAR ABBY: I am 61 and dating a 63-year-old man, "Charles." I live in my own apartment, pay my own bills, and I like and enjoy life. Charles is constantly over at my apartment and ends up falling asleep for hours at a time. It irritates me when he sleeps six, seven and even eight hours at my place. I feel he has a place of his own, and he should be doing that there.
He has told me numerous times that he doesn't feel safe at his apartment because of the neighborhood. He says that is why he is spending time with me. I like my alone time, which I don't have often. Prior to him, I wasn't in a relationship for seven years.
I feel that Charles is needy. Am I being unreasonable? I don't think I am, and it always ends up in an argument. If you could please give me some advice, I would appreciate your input. -- NOT HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS
DEAR NOT HOTEL: Wake up and smell the coffee. Charles told you he spends all that time with you because he doesn't feel safe in his apartment, NOT because he loves your company so much he cannot stay away. What did he do before he met you?
From where I sit, it appears he's angling to move in. It isn't unreasonable to want your own space, particularly if you are the one paying for it, while he snores away the hours. If the status quo isn't what you want, it is up to you to change it.
DEAR ABBY: In class, I sit next to a girl who is constantly telling me that she likes the way I smell. I don't know if she's flirting with me or actually likes my cologne. She is making me very self-conscious. Should I confront her or tell my teacher? Or should I drop out and move to Alaska? I'm scared. -- READY TO MOVE IN THE SOUTH
DEAR READY TO MOVE: Your classmate is trying to pay you a compliment. Tell her the name of your cologne and where she can buy some, if you are wearing any. As to moving out of state, that smells very unnecessary to me.
DEAR ABBY: My wife's family drops by our home several times a week, usually unannounced. I don't mind them dropping in, but what does bother me is they bring their kids and expect us to feed them during the visits. It has gotten to the point that I hide our snacks and beverages in the bedroom because if I leave them in the cupboard, they disappear. They often end up eating the leftovers I had planned to be my lunch for the next day.
I have talked with my wife several times about this situation. She agrees with me, but she says there's nothing she can do about it. I wasn't brought up that way. I would never think of going to someone's home, opening up cupboards and helping myself to food without an invitation. Also, I'm retired and on a fixed income. Am I overreacting, and must I just keep my mouth shut? -- FRUSTRATED IN THE WEST
DEAR FRUSTRATED: This is your wife's family, and she is the one who should deal with this. All she has to say is she would appreciate it if her relatives ASK when they'd like some food or drinks because their foraging through your cupboards has created a problem for the two of you.
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