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Dear Abby

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DEAR ABBY: I need some advice regarding my mother-in-law. She has hated me since the first time she met me because I'm not from the country but from "the city." I have given her gifts for birthdays and holidays and invited her on day trips with us, but she always refuses.

She also makes up lies about me. She claims I have STDs, spend all her son's money, etc. She even spread a rumor that I wouldn't allow her at our wedding. She lives 46 miles away and, in the five years we have been married, has never once visited her son. I take him to visit her because he can't get a driver's license because of medical issues.

Our child and I aren't even allowed in her home. We have to sit in the car. She acts like our child doesn't exist, but she has pictures of her other two grandchildren on Facebook and drives to see them almost weekly. My husband sees nothing wrong with her behavior and says he "won't take sides." I don't know what to do. -- PEEVED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR PEEVED: Please accept my sympathy for your situation. While your husband refuses to recognize there is anything wrong with his mother's behavior, it is off the charts. I hope you realize that most men stand up for their wives and children when they are mistreated.

Because you can't change your husband or his witch of a mother, and you made no mention of leaving the marriage, you will simply have to adjust to it. Start by planning an activity you and your child can enjoy while your husband is visiting his mom, rather than sitting for hours in the car. Even better, arrange "other" transportation for your husband.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 24-year-old woman who has been in a relationship with a man for seven years. "Ken" is 27 years older than I am. (I pursued him.) I love him, but I have always been slightly confused about my relationship with him, and he knows this. Lately, I have been feeling very guilty. My heart knows that my love for Ken isn't enough for what he truly deserves.

He's a good, honest man, and I enjoy our relationship. We get along great, have a lot in common and make a great team. I am comfortable with us and our life. But recently I have realized that I want to be on my own, alone, and not in a relationship. I feel a strong desire to focus on me and only me, so I can grow into the person I envision myself being. Any advice besides the obvious -- my leaving the relationship? -- WANTING MORE IN WISCONSIN

DEAR WANTING: You became involved with Ken while you were still very young. It appears you never gave yourself time to fully develop as an individual. You state that you are still "in a relationship" rather than a marriage, which may be a blessing considering your ambivalence.

Many women would be glad to live their life in a relationship that has all the positive qualities that yours has with Ken. I am sure you both will discover this when you move on. However, since you asked my advice, talk this through with a licensed relationship counselor before making any final decision.

DEAR ABBY: A year and a half ago, I separated from my husband because I was being neglected, not respected, and mistreated emotionally. During the separation, he had to have surgery and needed to be taken care of while he healed. I went back because, as his wife, I felt obligated to do the right thing.

I have tried to move forward and restore my marriage, but I still don't feel loved or appreciated. In the back of my mind, I can't forget the way he treated me in the past. I feel stuck because he isn't working and doesn't plan on working again. He says he's not able to, but I believe he could do something that's not strenuous. How do I find my happiness and still do the right thing? -- CONFLICTED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR CONFLICTED: Have you told your husband how you feel -- about everything? If you have and nothing has changed, make an appointment with a lawyer to find out what your obligations may be to a husband who is no longer self-supporting.

If he has no income, you may have to provide for him financially from now on. For some women, this might mean remaining unhappily married but living their own lives to the extent they can, and not relying on their spouse for emotional or any other support.

DEAR ABBY: I have to meet my fiance's adult children. They are not happy he's in a relationship since their mom's death two years ago. I'm very nervous about it, and so is he. What do we do? -- TAKING THE NEXT STEP

DEAR TAKING: You meet them, and do your best to relax and be friendly and open with them. Understand they are still grieving the loss of their beloved mother, and be prepared to do a lot of listening. Refrain from physical displays of affection with your fiance until they get to know you.

If it becomes necessary, their father should be prepared to make clear to them that you two are going to be married and, while they do not have to "love" you, he expects them to treat you with courtesy, respect and kindness.

DEAR ABBY: Is it customary to give a house cleaner or cleaning service lunch or offer them food if they are doing an extensive cleaning job? I ask because my mother-in-law hired a cleaning crew. She watches my infant daughter during the day. She doesn't cook or clean, although I pay her. Well, she gave the crew lunch. Mind you, she didn't ask me if it was OK or if I wanted the leftovers for my own lunch. I wouldn't mind, but I'm wondering if this is typical. -- CLEANING CREW LUNCH

DEAR CLEANING CREW: Let me put it this way: It is intelligent and hospitable to offer lunch if you want a happy, energetic cleaning crew who look forward to coming back. The practice is NOT uncommon.

P.S. If there are leftovers you would like to have for lunch, take them with you before the housekeepers arrive.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing because I'm in a tough situation and not sure what to do. I was recently told by a family member that my 24-year-old son is gay. (He hasn't given me any indication that he is, other than not dating anyone for several years.) He had a bad experience with a girl in his teens and I assumed that was why he hasn't dated.

My question for you is, should I confront him about it or wait until he tells me? I have come to terms with the possibility and will stand by him no matter what. I am also concerned that his father (we are divorced) will disown him if he finds out. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. -- MOM IN OHIO

DEAR MOM: It would be interesting to know why this relative thinks your son is gay. Did your son tell the relative? I don't think you should "confront" your son. In time his sexual orientation will become apparent whether he's gay, straight, bi, asexual, etc. It should be his choice to reveal it -- or not.

P.S. If he is gay, your ex-husband's inability to accept his son, regardless of his sexual orientation, may be the reason he hasn't spoken up.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I divorced five years ago. We have four grown children. He wanted to sell the house, but I ended up buying him out because two of our kids were still living at home.

Fast-forward to now: We are expecting our third grandkid. Since the divorce, he doesn't want to co-parent with me. He keeps saying we are no longer a family. The holidays and main events are now celebrated separately. I am increasingly sad about this. He refuses to be civil with me. He's a racist, and I happen to have a boyfriend of a different race living with me now.

His attitude is affecting our children, especially the one still living with me. I want to be able to share the joy of our new grandkids and the successes of our children, and the dilemmas as well, but I can't. Should I confront him? Or should I just consider him "dead"? -- SOMEONE'S MISSING IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR SOMEONE'S MISSING: I seriously doubt that "confronting" your ex-husband will work out well. You are a loving, enthusiastic parent and you do not need your ex's negative attitude putting a damper on your happiness.

Continue hosting these celebratory events, and extend invites to your ex if you wish. However, because of his racism, do not expect him to show up. That's a good thing, all things considered. Continue to dwell on the positive, and you and your children will all be happier.

DEAR ABBY: My brother "Patrick" and I have known "Bobby" for about 20 years. Patrick is closer friends with him because they live in the same town. Recently, we found out that Bobby's best friend was arrested for child pornography. While Bobby knew nothing about this before the arrest, he still wants to support his friend.

I told Patrick he will no longer be welcome in my home (I host for all the holidays) if he doesn't cut off all contact with Bobby. My brother says I'm being too harsh because you can disapprove of someone's behavior and still be a friend. I think that child pornography is morally and ethically wrong and there is no middle ground here. What do you think? Should Bobby have a seat at our table? (He has no other living family.) -- NOT WELCOMED IN THE EAST

DEAR NOT WELCOMED: I do not think you should excommunicate your brother because of something Bobby's friend did. I believe the Bible says that while you can hate the sin, you should still love the sinner, and that is what Bobby is doing. If you wish to check the reference, you may discover you have a copy somewhere in your home. You can review that chapter with your brother at your holiday table.

DEAR ABBY: I am 35, and my boyfriend is 31. We met at work and moved in together. It has been five years now and still no proposal. I thought we were on the same page, but he just purchased a brand-new muscle car and is only concerned about that, buying new sneakers (he has a sneaker obsession) and making more money. I currently share a rental lease with him and am considering going my separate way in three months, mainly because he is complacent and our relationship has become stagnant. It is going nowhere. Please help. -- HOPED FOR MORE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HOPED FOR MORE: Getting to know someone takes time. Be glad you have realized this man isn't husband material before you wasted more time waiting for him to mature. Hang in there until the lease is up, then move resolutely on, parting I hope, as "friends."

Allow me to offer a suggestion: Hire a nurse to tend to him after the second hip replacement and stay safely out of the line of fire. The peace of mind will be worth the money.

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

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