DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have an elderly (90-plus) aunt who lives with her son in a town about four hours away. She corresponds by letter with us regularly, and we always write back. However, it has become apparent that she's not receiving our letters because she doesn't make any comments on any of the things we write to tell her about. We suspect that her son is withholding her mail because we have written to him in the past to express our displeasure about how he treats his mother's emotional and safety needs.
In the last letter we received from her, she told us she expected to spend Christmas in her basement apartment while her son and his wife's family have Christmas festivities upstairs. It broke our hearts, but we realize that since we're so far away, there's little we can do. We've tried sending letters without our return address on the envelope, etc. to get past her son's scrutiny, but we really don't believe she's getting her mail.
Should we contact the police or social services to do a wellness check on her, or do you have another suggestion? We know she occasionally goes to a senior center in town. Should we write to her in care of the senior center? Your comments are appreciated. -- SUSPICIOUS IN GEORGIA
DEAR SUSPICIOUS: Your relative may be having memory issues, or your fears may be genuine. Is it possible to talk with her on the phone or visit her to make an assessment? If someone suspects that an older person is being physically, emotionally or financially abused, it should be reported so the matter can be investigated. You can do that by contacting Adult Protective Services in your aunt's state or the National Domestic Violence hotline at thehotline.org or 800-799-7233.
DEAR ABBY: A few years ago, I found some flirtatious and slightly risque messages between my husband and a female business associate. My husband agreed that they were wrong and says he has discontinued those kinds of conversations. He has stayed in contact with her, and their friendship remains.
After dealing with the hurt for more than two years, I finally told him a few months ago the only way I would be OK with their friendship is if he introduced me to her. He promised he would, but he hasn't followed through. This week I saw on our phone bill that while on a recent business trip he was texting with her late into the night and early in the morning. I confronted him, but he continues to say they are just friends, and he is doing nothing wrong.
I'm heartbroken. I feel he has betrayed my trust. What should I do? -- DISRESPECTED IN TEXAS
DEAR DISRESPECTED: Your husband is doing something wrong. He's hurting you and threatening the marriage. What you should do now is ask your doctor or your health insurance company to refer you to a marriage and family therapist, schedule some visits and insist that your husband join you. If he is interested in saving the marriage, he will agree. If not, you may need to reconsider your future and consult an attorney.
DEAR ABBY: Our brother-in-law made a terrible mistake and is now serving time. My younger sister, "Tess," and I have visited him on a few occasions. We support him by listening and have told him that although he made a horrible mistake, he has to move forward.
Well, something happened that has put a damper on things. This brother-in-law sent Tess a letter, and in it he confessed to her that he had a dream, and she was in it. It wasn't a horrible letter, but I believe it was very inappropriate. He alluded to the fact that it was a sexual dream.
Tess has asked me if she should let our older sister, "Jane," know what her husband wrote. Jane has been through so much, so I told Tess it would not be a good idea to disclose it and add to her misery. Tess says it isn't fair to her to have to swallow this pill for the sake of not making waves. She feels Jane should know what kind of man her husband is. Abby, Jane knows exactly what kind of man she has. Part of what he did wrong was have a cyber affair.
Should Tess inform Jane that her husband has been inappropriate? She now refuses to visit our brother-in-law and has basically written him off. Please give me your opinion and advice. -- TORN UP OVER THIS IN TEXAS
DEAR TORN UP: Tess is right. It appears incarceration hasn't discouraged your brother-in-law from writing inappropriate material to inappropriate recipients. Tess should not be discouraged from informing Jane about what her husband has done and showing her the letter, if it is still in her possession. Jane has a right to know. Please respect that Tess needs to distance herself from this troubled individual and his fantasies, and don't encourage her to visit him again. In light of what's happened, I'm not sure you should either.
DEAR ABBY: I met a man online I thought was wonderful. OK, I'll be honest. I wanted a quick roll in the hay -- nothing serious. The guy turned out to be a college dropout, deeply spiritual and a great conversationalist, and we quickly started dating.
Fast-forward six months. I feel trapped in a loveless marriage. The sex is almost nonexistent. He has OCD, and because of it, he is afraid to leave the house, get a job, go to the doctor or be naked. What kind of man is afraid of being naked in PRIVATE? He is amply endowed, fit and very attractive.
I'm at my wits' end. He needs professional help, which he refuses to get. I know he has a mental illness, so I'm trying my hardest to be sympathetic and understanding, but what am I to do? -- NEEDING MORE IN LOUISIANA
DEAR NEEDING MORE: By being sympathetic and understanding, you are enabling your husband to resist getting the help he needs. Give him an ultimatum: He gets professional help for his OCD or the marriage is over. You have nothing to lose by doing this and everything to gain because, if he gets the help he needs, your problem will be solved. And if he doesn't, you will possibly avoid having a child with a man who will be unable to support it financially.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for six months. Our birthdays fall two days apart. His birthday is first, and we were invited to his parents' for dinner and cake. He received many gifts from his family.
For convenience, his brother gave us ONE card with $200 cash in it that was meant for both of us. (My husband always gives his sister-in-law a gift on her birthday.) My husband took the cash and put it in his pocket without acknowledging that half of it was meant for me.
A couple days later, my birthday came around. This time we went to dinner with my family. After dinner, my parents gave each of us a present. He went home with some new clothes and cologne. Do I have a right to be mad that his brother's gift to both of us went only to him? -- PLENTY MAD IN ILLINOIS
DEAR PLENTY MAD: Of course you do. That money should have been split 50-50. But you're complaining to the wrong person. You should be saying it to your husband. Because you have been married only six months, perhaps he isn't used to the concept of marriage being about the two of you. Straighten that out with him now.
P.S. Convenience or not, your brother-in-law should have given you separate gifts.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a freshman in high school, and it's great. I've made a lot of new friends, but most of them are guys. For some reason, they think I'm this girly-girl type who doesn't like to get my hands dirty. When it's time to do something that involves lifting, they think they have to take over. If they ever saw me at home, they'd think I was a whole different person. How can I show to them I'm not a girly-girl while still being friends with them? -- NO GIRLY-GIRL
DEAR NO GIRLY-GIRL: Here's how. The next time one of them says, "Let me do it for you," all you have to say is, "No, thank you." Then do the heavy lifting yourself. Word gets around.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I received a worrisome email from our 20-something-year-old son, a graduate student some distance away. He wrote that he is recovering from wounds of his childhood. (We thought we were loving, supportive parents.) He indicated he will come home for visits only if we comply with his demands -- about 10 were listed -- and accused us of some things we never did.
On the advice of my counselor -- I have a history of depression, which is in remission -- I wrote agreeing to his demands in order to keep the lines of communication open. My husband refuses to do this. He is overwhelmingly hurt, angry and frustrated. He says he "will not walk on eggshells in his own home." Our son is our only child. What can or should we do? -- HEARTBROKEN IN OHIO
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DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Nobody should have to walk on eggshells. If ever I heard of a family that could benefit from family counseling, you three are it. Your doctor or insurance company can refer you to someone who is licensed and competent. Please don't wait.
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