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Dear Abby

Dear Abby

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DEAR ABBY: "Eileen" and I have been friends for 21 years. She's been supportive through my life's ups and downs, even though I've twice moved several states away. She has always made me laugh.

Abby, over the years, she has increasingly flaunted her spending habits, bragging about how much she spent on her son's birthday or Christmas gifts or home renovations, and sending me pictures of her brand-new cars.

I'm not jealous. I grew up in an upscale neighborhood with career-driven, successful parents who loved and provided for us. I was also very close to my sisters and am to this day. Eileen grew up in less fortunate circumstances. She never saw her mother much, and she found her father only recently through social media.

I am finding Eileen's behavior increasingly annoying. Would it be wrong to say something to her about this? I'm afraid if I open my mouth, it could potentially destroy our friendship. What do you advise? -- ANNOYED IN KENTUCKY

DEAR ANNOYED: When people behave the way Eileen does, it usually reveals more about their insecurity than their success. Eileen did not grow up with the advantages that you enjoyed, and she may do this because she thinks it's the only way to measure up.

Let your friend know you're happy things are going well for her. Then, ask her why she does this. After she responds, tell her that you have always loved her for who she is, not for what she has -- and in the future you wish she would not take up space in your precious conversations with insignificant topics like material things.

DEAR ABBY: In about three years, my wife and I will be able to comfortably retire. The problem is she's 57 and has smoked since she was in her teens. In addition to tobacco, she also smokes reefer and consumes alcohol three or four nights a week, and her family medical history is not great. I indulge a little with her -- on weekends only -- and I'm not a smoker.

Needless to say, I'm becoming increasingly worried that our golden years will be difficult or cut short. I have tried talking to her about it, but she doesn't want to hear it. She's a great person and the love of my life, and I don't want to lose her before we can enjoy retirement and grandkids. What can I do? -- WORRIED SICK IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR WORRIED SICK: Try this approach: Tell your wife she's the love of your life and you would like to spend your golden years celebrating them with her while you both take full advantage of everything you have worked so hard to accumulate. Explain you're worried that her vices will shorten her life, which is why you "need" her to quit smoking cigarettes and cut down on the drinking.

If she refuses, add that if her life ends prematurely, your life will NOT be over, and what a shame it would be if everything you had worked and planned for couldn't be enjoyed together. If that doesn't motivate her, nothing will.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is an amazing guy. We have a very nice life except for an older sort-of family member who is living with us.

"Nathan" has been living in the house for years, but he isn't a blood relative. He's my husband's late stepfather's brother. Nathan is a several-times-divorced curmudgeon who was living in a shed. He was allowed to stay here to get on his feet and, partially, out of respect for the stepfather.

Nathan refuses to help out in any way. He comes and goes as he pleases and is living rent-free. We pay the mortgage and all the bills. Nathan buys food and stuff for himself, but then will eat the household food my mother-in-law buys.

I'm tired of the garbage he makes. He smokes in his room, and he's nasty, rude and demanding. He needs to move out or pay up, but my husband doesn't want to do anything. Advice? -- UNHAPPY AT HOME

DEAR UNHAPPY: Just this. Realize that nothing will change until your husband is finally willing to put his foot down and insist on some changes, or the freeloader leaves this earthly plane for the next. I would have used the phrase "goes to heaven," but it appears Nathan is already experiencing heaven right here on Earth, so do not expect him to move on his own.

DEAR ABBY: I was recently informed that my best friend of 10 years, "Darlene," planned to ghost me as soon as she got pregnant. I'm shocked that she would say such a thing or plan to do it. I always thought I was a good friend.

But now Darlene and her husband are getting a divorce, and she has been all chummy. I have a sour taste in my mouth. Do I stay friends and get over it, or give her her wish and disappear? -- UNFRIENDED IN THE WEST

DEAR UNFRIENDED: Are you sure the person who informed you about her plan is credible? Could they be jealous of the close friendship you have with Darlene? Frankly, it would be incredibly stupid for a person planning to ghost someone to tell a mutual friend who might leak it before the fact. Talk to Darlene! Do not end the friendship unless you are absolutely certain what you were told was the gospel.

DEAR ABBY: Our 11-year-old has learned to lie, and we feel terrible about it. Because she has a sensory processing disorder, clothes are a useless gift because the seams and fabric are often uncomfortable for her. We have repeatedly asked family and friends not to gift her clothes, but her grandmas are in denial and often do it anyway.

Our sweet daughter has decided that sparing their feelings is more important than asserting her own, and I'm worried this behavior will teach her that her feelings are less important than other people's. How do we teach her to be polite and honor her own feelings and wishes without offending well-meaning relatives who cannot understand that she doesn't appreciate or value these gifts? -- MAMA BEAR IN TEXAS

DEAR MAMA BEAR: Of course your daughter should be taught that her feelings -- and opinions -- are important. But accepting gifts graciously is proper etiquette. It is considered rude for a recipient to tell folks their gifts are unwelcome or unwanted.

It would not be rude, however, for YOU to run interference by reminding these clueless grannies about your daughter's problem and telling them what has been happening to their impractical gifts -- that they are given away, donated, etc. because she cannot wear them. A far more welcome gift would be something she's interested in or a gift card to a store that carries items she might like. Then suggest an area of interest of hers they may be unaware of. Also, for "insurance," request a receipt be included with the gift.

DEAR ABBY: I've been dating my boyfriend for two years. We're in our 40s. I moved to the city he lives in, but he's currently working in a different state, and he has been extremely stressed these last few weeks. He's paying rent and utilities in our state as well as the state he's working in.

He says he is overwhelmed and wants to take a break -- from me! He also said he's too emotionally unstable right now to continue our relationship. I'm devastated. I know he and his family have depression issues, but I love him so much. He's unwilling to take any financial assistance from his family.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to end our relationship, but he's refusing to talk to me or discuss it. -- OUT OF OPTIONS IN OHIO

DEAR OUT OF OPTIONS: After two years of dating and a life-changing move to his city, I can only imagine the turmoil you are feeling at this turn of events. The problems that are stressing him out are real. Because he's unwilling to talk to you, and you can't force him, there is nothing you can do to fix them.

If you plan to remain there hoping things will change, set a realistic time limit and stick to it. If the deadline passes and he still feels the same, then realize how important it is for you to live someplace where you have the strongest emotional support as you rebuild your life. Write him a letter. Tell him you will always be there if he needs to talk, and encourage him to check back in with his doctor to address the depression.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay man in my late 40s, partnered with a man in his late 50s. There are a lot of issues from my past that I try hard to move beyond and let go of. I was wrongly accused and convicted of a crime I didn't commit, for which I was sentenced to life in prison.

I sat in prison seven years before I was able to prove my innocence and regain my freedom. Even then, I was forced to accept certain requirements to keep my freedom, regardless of being proven innocent. Unfortunately, I'm finding it difficult because my partner keeps sharing my story with people who are complete strangers to me. When they meet me, the first words out of their mouths are things like: "You poor man, I'm so sorry," or "Wow, I can't believe you went through that," and "Man, you must be a strong person to have gotten through that."

How do I move past this, if he keeps telling people a story that is NOT his to tell, but mine to disclose if I choose to do so? The shame and embarrassment of facing this trauma of my past on a regular basis isn't healthy for me. How can I get him to understand that he needs to stop doing it?

I'm afraid to say anything to him about it. He dismisses my feelings most of the time when I bring up things he does that upset me.

I love this man with all of my heart. He was one of only two people who stood by me during my trauma and made it possible to prove my innocence. He was also my "first." My love for him has only grown over the years, but this issue of my story being revealed has to stop. -- FRUSTRATED IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR FRUSTRATED: You not only have to speak up, but you also have to be heard. That your much older partner dismisses your feelings is controlling and condescending. He has no right to disclose VERY personal information about you with strangers.

You wrote that this is your first relationship. If this continues, it may not be your last. Present it to your partner in exactly these terms. Couples counseling may save your relationship, but only if the balance of power is adjusted.

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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