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Dear Abby

Dear Abby

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DEAR ABBY: I'm in my late 20s, married and happily child-free. My best friend recently became pregnant, and I am having a hard time with it. I don't enjoy children, and it feels like I am losing my best friend. All she wants to talk about is the baby. I've tried hinting that I'll be here when she and her husband need a break from being "Mom and Dad," but she continues to talk on and on about the all-consuming baby.

I know this is a big change and a huge part of her life, but I also know she has plenty of other support for this child. I would hope she realizes that I do not care for children or wish to be around them. How can I let her know -- without offending her -- that the last thing I want to hear about are diapers and prams? -- CHILD-FREE IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CHILD-FREE: I am sorry you feel so negative about the topics of babies and children, because your intolerance will eventually isolate you from friends and peers. If you voice what you are thinking, you will alienate your best friend, who is rightly thrilled to be embarking on the adventure of parenthood.

Because her talk about babies, diapers and the process she's going through affects you like nails on a chalkboard, limit the conversations and visits you have with her. Do NOT write her off, however, because it is possible that in time she will be reaching out to you, craving conversation that goes beyond the playpen.

DEAR ABBY: As the pandemic has forced many to work remotely, I feel certain I'm not the only person with this dilemma. I have been working from home since last March. My fiance, on the other hand, has a manual labor job in a skilled trade. Abby, it seems like every other day he picks a fight with me because he thinks I should have the house clean, chores done and dinner cooked when he returns from work, despite the fact that I have been working at my job all day.

He equates my being home to me being able to take care of all the chores. He criticizes me and calls me lazy and other names all the time. Regardless of what he thinks, I have a demanding job in an IT field, which is no less demanding because I'm home. It involves numerous conference calls all day.

I have an opportunity now where some of us can come back to the office, but because I have an autoimmune disease, I'm hesitant. Should I go back to the office to keep the peace or remain working from home, which I actually enjoy? I have talked to him about this repeatedly, and it not only doesn't seem to be getting any better, it's getting worse. Your thoughts? -- TELECOMMUTING IN FLORIDA

DEAR TELECOMMUTING: Your physical health must come first. If returning to the office will endanger your health, you must stay home and protect it.

Your mental health comes next. Your fiance appears to be having a chauvinistic fever dream in which he has been transported back to the 1950s. For the last quarter of a century -- and more -- men have been helping their partners with the "chores" he's harassing you about. If he can't dig deep and find it in his heart to chip in, then for the sake of your health and your sanity, PLEASE rethink this engagement, because it is unhealthy.

DEAR ABBY: While I was battling cancer, my husband vanished into thin air with all our money. It has been years now, and we finally were divorced, but I have never been able to get over what he did to me. Talking to professionals helped some, but I still wonder what happened.

We were together for 20 years. I was left in a remote part of Alaska to fend for myself when I could hardly get around after the surgery and radiation treatments. It's like he wanted me dead. How can I possibly get over what I thought was the love of my life? -- CAN'T LET GO

DEAR CAN'T LET GO: Your husband may have been the love of your life, but the love of HIS life was ... him. That he not only ran when the chips were down but cleaned out the bank account, leaving you battling a life-threatening illness, was beyond the pale. Why he did it was fear, weakness and lack of character.

Having prevailed over cancer and poverty, getting over your ex should be a cinch. However, finding the ability to trust again may be another matter, and no one would blame you if you couldn't do it. An important step forward might be more counseling to help you cope.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend's mother died by suicide two weeks ago. The whole family is having a hard time, and they are dealing with things in their own ways. My boyfriend has decided to move us in with his dad and sister because he wants to be near his father. I would prefer to stay living in our house since we only live about three miles away from them.

I do not want to be difficult, but I really don't want to move. He made this decision a few days ago without consulting me. He said to come with him, or we will go our separate ways. His family and I have not always gotten along, and I'm pretty sure that moving in will make it worse. Shouldn't I have any say in this, or must I do what makes him happy? -- IN LIMBO IN OHIO

DEAR IN LIMBO: People in the throes of grief do not always make the wisest decisions. They also are not their best selves in emotionally fraught situations. You should not have been given an ultimatum.

Is this move supposed to be permanent or temporary? Because you are a couple, you should have been consulted before your boyfriend made this decision. Since your relationship with his family hasn't been the best, the transition could be a bumpy one. If you can afford to live independently, it might be a good idea to explore that option for now.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 25-year-old man currently dating a 39-year-old woman. We have been dating for 2 1/2 months. We have talked about our age difference a couple of times, but apart from that issue, every other aspect of our relationship is going well, including communication, intimacy and maturity.

We are not super interested in having children, and we both have expressed interest in adopting a child if we were to have one somewhere down the line. Despite this, I have heard from family (my parents, mostly) and close friends that I'm making a terrible mistake by dating a woman so much older.

They say it is not practical to marry a woman so much older because it will present major health and aging challenges as time goes by. This is the argument that most influences my feelings. Should I break up with her and tell her that the age difference is the reason? I feel I should decide soon so as not to waste her time. -- NOT JUST A NUMBER IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR NOT JUST A NUMBER: You have been seeing this woman for only 2 1/2 months. The relationship is still new. That you are discussing marriage and children seems to me to be premature. My advice is to slow down. Let time dictate whether this romance develops further.

Discuss the flak you are getting from your parents with your lady friend. But the 14-year age difference does not necessarily mean that she'll have health challenges that you won't. Decide together whether the age difference is a deal-breaker.

DEAR ABBY: I had a boyfriend for two years until a few days ago. He's a 40-year-old easygoing paraplegic (from a car accident long before I met him), and I'm an easygoing 36-year-old woman with two kids from a previous marriage.

We had a great connection, a similar outlook on life and had the same interests in pretty much everything. He adored my girls. We would all go to a movie every so often or to dinner occasionally, but mostly we would stay in and play games or watch TV when we were spending time together.

I'm his first girlfriend, so he was new to the concept of having someone love him in spite of every little flaw he had (which were very few). I told him so many times that no matter what was wrong, I was going to stick by his side.

Recently, he's had a medical problem with a few ulcerated sores. This sometimes happens to paraplegics. Unfortunately, his doctor has said he needed to leave his apartment temporarily and go into a nursing facility to get round-the-clock care. A few months went by, with plenty of visits from friends, family, and me and my daughters. (He always introduces us as his family.)

The doctor now says he may need to stay there for a year, and I know he became immediately depressed. He sent me a text saying he thinks we should just be friends, and he doesn't want a reminder of what he can't do anymore. I feel like this isn't him, that he's jumping to rash conclusions because of stress. I don't want to end the relationship. I'm willing to keep moving forward and get through this speed bump together.

He won't answer my calls or texts, and I'm at a loss about what I should do next. I want to keep him so badly. My heart aches every day worrying about this. He may lose a year of freedom, but I'm losing a lifelong companion. -- HEAVY HEART IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HEAVY HEART: You really have no choice but to follow this man's lead, so do as he has asked. Remember, you promised to support him no matter what. Agree to be "just friends," although it won't be easy if he wants to remain incommunicado. In the meantime, stay as active with other friends as you can. Above all, do NOT allow yourself to become socially isolated because he has chosen to isolate himself.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter "Frances" is currently applying for graduate school and is dating a man who works in human waste management. She lives in the dorms at school. Her brother "Harry" was at a party recently, and a young lady told him the "poop pumper" has been trying to get some alone time with her. I feel I should tell Frances that her guy is on the prowl. They have been dating since Frances was 16, and my wife and I have always thought she could do better. Should we tell her? -- HOLDING MY NOSE IN OHIO

DEAR HOLDING: No, HARRY should tell his sister about the person he met at the party and exactly what he was told. Coming from her brother it will sound less like "I told you so." As to your comment that Frances "could do better," if you're referring to the boyfriend's chosen field, be aware that people in waste management can earn a very good living doing a very important job.

DEAR ABBY: My father has been mostly absent from my life. We reconnected when I was an adult. I have always had feelings of abandonment, and because of this, I have constantly tried to build a relationship with him and allow him to have one with his grandchildren.

Dad met my friend of 10 years, "Danielle," two months ago when I threw him a birthday party. Since then, he and Danielle have begun a relationship on the sly. The problem is, Danielle tells Dad things I confided to her over the years, and he is coming back to me with whatever she has told him.

Dad has been separated for 14 years, and Danielle insisted that she wouldn't date him under those circumstances, but she did. Since the start of this, my relationship with my dad is even worse, and my long friendship with Danielle has been ruined because I know I can't trust her. Dad spends all of his time with her and her child now and hasn't begun to build a bond with me or his own grandchildren, which has been the story of my life, and my friend knows this. Abby, am I being selfish? What do you think I should do? -- MORE THAN AWKWARD IN ARKANSAS

DEAR MORE: I don't think you are selfish. You have good reason to be hurt and disappointed. Your father is remaining true to character, but your friend has betrayed your trust. You may need the help of a licensed therapist to move beyond this, and that is what I recommend you do.

Believe me, you have my sympathy. But you can't change your father or Danielle. You can, however, change the way you react to them, and a therapist will help you do that more quickly than you can do it on your own.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend is 31 and still goes to his mother's house and spends the night, even though we live less than 15 minutes away. He knows it upsets me, yet every time she asks him to spend the night, he goes. He left our children home alone while I worked overnight because it was her birthday.

His relationship with his mother is a large part of why we aren't married, and the fact that he continues to spend the night there is leading to huge fights. Is this normal or not? -- FED UP IN OHIO

DEAR FED UP: That your boyfriend would leave minor children alone and without supervision while he spends the night with his mother -- birthday or not -- is unusual. It would have been more logical for him to have invited his mother to your house to celebrate the occasion.

That said, you cannot control what your boyfriend does. I suspect there's a lot more wrong with your relationship than the fact that he hasn't emotionally separated from his mother. You two could benefit from couples counseling to sort out not only his relationship with his mother, but also your relationship with each other. If he won't go, go alone to get clarity on how to proceed with your future.

DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend who has a frustratingly bad habit. Every year, she makes a point of mentioning her upcoming birthday at least a couple of times a week, starting about four months before the day. It is never mentioned the rest of the year.

If I want to buy someone a birthday gift, I make the effort to find out when their special day is and act accordingly. If I don't wish to provide a gift, then no amount of nagging will guilt me into it. I do not want to end the friendship because she is an otherwise nice person and a good friend, but I'm sick of the nagging. Any suggestions on how to tactfully but effectively deal with this? -- NAGGED IN FLORIDA

DEAR NAGGED: The next time your friend starts up, respond by saying, "You have already told me." When she does it for the third time say, "You know, this is getting old. It looks like you are soliciting a gift." Then tell her if she keeps it up, you WON'T buy her one. I'll bet it works!

DEAR ABBY: Sometimes when my boyfriend and I go out with another couple and I'm talking, he abruptly says, "I never get a word in," or, "Can anyone else talk?" Abby, if I don't talk, he just sits there like a lump on a log. It's embarrassing, and I have asked him not to say that in front of other people. How should I respond when he makes cruel remarks in front of other people? -- AWKWARD SILENCE IN NEW YORK

DEAR AWKWARD: Is what your boyfriend says true? Or is it that he has trouble making social conversation? If that's the case, perhaps you should make more of an effort to draw the "lump" into the conversation. However, if it's not true, then what he's doing may be an effort to appear to be the dominant partner in your relationship.

When it happens again -- and I'm betting it will -- your response should be, "Ouch. That was hurtful and embarrassing. If you have a complaint about my behavior, please be considerate and make it privately."

DEAR ABBY: My husband has a contentious relationship with our grandchildren. He generally is a fun, happy and interesting person. But by nature he is not "hands on" when it comes to children.

Our son and daughter have great spouses and five young grandsons. He stands around like a warden waiting for something to happen, then just yells at them. It is clear he doesn't enjoy being with them, and their mood changes from happy to surly when he's around. I enjoy doing things with them and taking them to lots of fun places, and I know my husband doesn't like to go anywhere with them.

I have had two major talks trying to encourage him to have a positive, interactive relationship with the boys, to no avail. He reacts as if I'm the only one who sees this. My sister, son and daughter-in-law have talked to me about it, but I haven't told my husband. Should I just drop this issue? -- DOING THE WORK OF TWO

DEAR DOING: Your husband may or may not be capable of changing. However, the next time your sister, son and daughter-in-law talk to you about the negative message your husband is sending the grandchildren, please tell them they are talking to the wrong person. They should take this up with "Grandpa Grump," and you should not be forced into the position of being the messenger.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter is 22 weeks pregnant. This will be our first grandchild, and we were excited to be hosting the baby shower for her. Unfortunately, her in-laws got involved. We were told they were mostly in charge and we should butt out, and my daughter will host her own shower. She sent us a message stating that they don't want the shower to be a "burden or financial strain on us," so we can come only as guests.

We never ever said anything about finances or anything. We were excited about the shower and couldn't wait to start this amazing journey. What do we do? Do we still go as grandparents, as guests or stay away? We are not allowed to help with anything, but we were told to contribute to the food. -- STUNNED IN SOUTH AFRICA

DEAR STUNNED: Contribute what food exactly? A box of crackers? A fruit salad? Money? I don't blame you for being upset. It certainly looks like you have been pushed aside.

Did your daughter send you that message or did her mother-in-law? I ask because it is considered a breach of etiquette for an honoree to throw her own shower. Talk to your daughter. However, do not allow this to drive you away. Attend the shower. If you don't attend, it may be the beginning of an estrangement.

DEAR ABBY: Is it OK for me to be carrying my boss's belongings to his car at the end of his workday? Is it acceptable for me to be making his coffee a certain way and picking up his lunch? I was hired as a second administrative assistant, but I feel more like a maid/servant/slave. It's 2020! I don't think women should be treated like this anymore. Any advice? -- UNCERTAIN IN THE EAST

DEAR UNCERTAIN: Absolutely. Have a chat with your employer and review what your duties are supposed to be. Nowhere in your letter is it apparent that your boss is singling you out for these tasks because you're female. If you had proof this was the case, it would be another matter. Because you find these tasks demeaning, consider looking for another job because this may not be the place for you.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of 15 years is in prison. We have two children together. Our relationship has been rough. We had a fight, and he went to jail for it. Another reason he went to prison is he violated his probation and failed to report.

I take the kids to see him, and he still wants us to be together. He has nowhere to go when he gets out. How do I tell him I don't want him back at my house without him retaliating on me? -- AFRAID IN TEXAS

DEAR AFRAID: This is how. Tell him plainly that because of the circumstances that sent him to jail, you no longer want him living under your roof. It's bad for the children. Therefore, he will be finding other living arrangements when he is released.

He may not like it, but please remember you owe him nothing. You have to stand your ground for your children's sake. Should he stalk or threaten you in any way, go to the police. Tell them you are afraid of him and why, and ask about a restraining order because he is violent.

DEAR ABBY: I had a boyfriend for two years until a few days ago. He's a 40-year-old easygoing paraplegic (from a car accident long before I met him), and I'm an easygoing 36-year-old woman with two kids from a previous marriage.

We had a great connection, a similar outlook on life and had the same interests in pretty much everything. He adored my girls. We would all go to a movie every so often or to dinner occasionally, but mostly we would stay in and play games or watch TV when we were spending time together.

I'm his first girlfriend, so he was new to the concept of having someone love him in spite of every little flaw he had (which were very few). I told him so many times that no matter what was wrong, I was going to stick by his side.

Recently, he's had a medical problem with a few ulcerated sores. This sometimes happens to paraplegics. Unfortunately, his doctor has said he needed to leave his apartment temporarily and go into a nursing facility to get round-the-clock care. A few months went by, with plenty of visits from friends, family, and me and my daughters. (He always introduces us as his family.)

The doctor now says he may need to stay there for a year, and I know he became immediately depressed. He sent me a text saying he thinks we should just be friends, and he doesn't want a reminder of what he can't do anymore. I feel like this isn't him, that he's jumping to rash conclusions because of stress. I don't want to end the relationship. I'm willing to keep moving forward and get through this speed bump together.

He won't answer my calls or texts, and I'm at a loss about what I should do next. I want to keep him so badly. My heart aches every day worrying about this. He may lose a year of freedom, but I'm losing a lifelong companion. -- HEAVY HEART IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HEAVY HEART: You really have no choice but to follow this man's lead, so do as he has asked. Remember, you promised to support him no matter what. Agree to be "just friends," although it won't be easy if he wants to remain incommunicado. In the meantime, stay as active with other friends as you can. Above all, do NOT allow yourself to become socially isolated because he has chosen to isolate himself.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter "Frances" is currently applying for graduate school and is dating a man who works in human waste management. She lives in the dorms at school. Her brother "Harry" was at a party recently, and a young lady told him the "poop pumper" has been trying to get some alone time with her. I feel I should tell Frances that her guy is on the prowl. They have been dating since Frances was 16, and my wife and I have always thought she could do better. Should we tell her? -- HOLDING MY NOSE IN OHIO

DEAR HOLDING: No, HARRY should tell his sister about the person he met at the party and exactly what he was told. Coming from her brother it will sound less like "I told you so." As to your comment that Frances "could do better," if you're referring to the boyfriend's chosen field, be aware that people in waste management can earn a very good living doing a very important job.

DEAR ABBY: My father has been mostly absent from my life. We reconnected when I was an adult. I have always had feelings of abandonment, and because of this, I have constantly tried to build a relationship with him and allow him to have one with his grandchildren.

Dad met my friend of 10 years, "Danielle," two months ago when I threw him a birthday party. Since then, he and Danielle have begun a relationship on the sly. The problem is, Danielle tells Dad things I confided to her over the years, and he is coming back to me with whatever she has told him.

Dad has been separated for 14 years, and Danielle insisted that she wouldn't date him under those circumstances, but she did. Since the start of this, my relationship with my dad is even worse, and my long friendship with Danielle has been ruined because I know I can't trust her. Dad spends all of his time with her and her child now and hasn't begun to build a bond with me or his own grandchildren, which has been the story of my life, and my friend knows this. Abby, am I being selfish? What do you think I should do? -- MORE THAN AWKWARD IN ARKANSAS

DEAR MORE: I don't think you are selfish. You have good reason to be hurt and disappointed. Your father is remaining true to character, but your friend has betrayed your trust. You may need the help of a licensed therapist to move beyond this, and that is what I recommend you do.

Believe me, you have my sympathy. But you can't change your father or Danielle. You can, however, change the way you react to them, and a therapist will help you do that more quickly than you can do it on your own.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend is 31 and still goes to his mother's house and spends the night, even though we live less than 15 minutes away. He knows it upsets me, yet every time she asks him to spend the night, he goes. He left our children home alone while I worked overnight because it was her birthday.

His relationship with his mother is a large part of why we aren't married, and the fact that he continues to spend the night there is leading to huge fights. Is this normal or not? -- FED UP IN OHIO

DEAR FED UP: That your boyfriend would leave minor children alone and without supervision while he spends the night with his mother -- birthday or not -- is unusual. It would have been more logical for him to have invited his mother to your house to celebrate the occasion.

That said, you cannot control what your boyfriend does. I suspect there's a lot more wrong with your relationship than the fact that he hasn't emotionally separated from his mother. You two could benefit from couples counseling to sort out not only his relationship with his mother, but also your relationship with each other. If he won't go, go alone to get clarity on how to proceed with your future.

DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend who has a frustratingly bad habit. Every year, she makes a point of mentioning her upcoming birthday at least a couple of times a week, starting about four months before the day. It is never mentioned the rest of the year.

If I want to buy someone a birthday gift, I make the effort to find out when their special day is and act accordingly. If I don't wish to provide a gift, then no amount of nagging will guilt me into it. I do not want to end the friendship because she is an otherwise nice person and a good friend, but I'm sick of the nagging. Any suggestions on how to tactfully but effectively deal with this? -- NAGGED IN FLORIDA

DEAR NAGGED: The next time your friend starts up, respond by saying, "You have already told me." When she does it for the third time say, "You know, this is getting old. It looks like you are soliciting a gift." Then tell her if she keeps it up, you WON'T buy her one. I'll bet it works!

DEAR ABBY: Sometimes when my boyfriend and I go out with another couple and I'm talking, he abruptly says, "I never get a word in," or, "Can anyone else talk?" Abby, if I don't talk, he just sits there like a lump on a log. It's embarrassing, and I have asked him not to say that in front of other people. How should I respond when he makes cruel remarks in front of other people? -- AWKWARD SILENCE IN NEW YORK

DEAR AWKWARD: Is what your boyfriend says true? Or is it that he has trouble making social conversation? If that's the case, perhaps you should make more of an effort to draw the "lump" into the conversation. However, if it's not true, then what he's doing may be an effort to appear to be the dominant partner in your relationship.

When it happens again -- and I'm betting it will -- your response should be, "Ouch. That was hurtful and embarrassing. If you have a complaint about my behavior, please be considerate and make it privately."

DEAR ABBY: My husband has a contentious relationship with our grandchildren. He generally is a fun, happy and interesting person. But by nature he is not "hands on" when it comes to children.

Our son and daughter have great spouses and five young grandsons. He stands around like a warden waiting for something to happen, then just yells at them. It is clear he doesn't enjoy being with them, and their mood changes from happy to surly when he's around. I enjoy doing things with them and taking them to lots of fun places, and I know my husband doesn't like to go anywhere with them.

I have had two major talks trying to encourage him to have a positive, interactive relationship with the boys, to no avail. He reacts as if I'm the only one who sees this. My sister, son and daughter-in-law have talked to me about it, but I haven't told my husband. Should I just drop this issue? -- DOING THE WORK OF TWO

DEAR DOING: Your husband may or may not be capable of changing. However, the next time your sister, son and daughter-in-law talk to you about the negative message your husband is sending the grandchildren, please tell them they are talking to the wrong person. They should take this up with "Grandpa Grump," and you should not be forced into the position of being the messenger.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter is 22 weeks pregnant. This will be our first grandchild, and we were excited to be hosting the baby shower for her. Unfortunately, her in-laws got involved. We were told they were mostly in charge and we should butt out, and my daughter will host her own shower. She sent us a message stating that they don't want the shower to be a "burden or financial strain on us," so we can come only as guests.

We never ever said anything about finances or anything. We were excited about the shower and couldn't wait to start this amazing journey. What do we do? Do we still go as grandparents, as guests or stay away? We are not allowed to help with anything, but we were told to contribute to the food. -- STUNNED IN SOUTH AFRICA

DEAR STUNNED: Contribute what food exactly? A box of crackers? A fruit salad? Money? I don't blame you for being upset. It certainly looks like you have been pushed aside.

Did your daughter send you that message or did her mother-in-law? I ask because it is considered a breach of etiquette for an honoree to throw her own shower. Talk to your daughter. However, do not allow this to drive you away. Attend the shower. If you don't attend, it may be the beginning of an estrangement.

DEAR ABBY: Is it OK for me to be carrying my boss's belongings to his car at the end of his workday? Is it acceptable for me to be making his coffee a certain way and picking up his lunch? I was hired as a second administrative assistant, but I feel more like a maid/servant/slave. It's 2020! I don't think women should be treated like this anymore. Any advice? -- UNCERTAIN IN THE EAST

DEAR UNCERTAIN: Absolutely. Have a chat with your employer and review what your duties are supposed to be. Nowhere in your letter is it apparent that your boss is singling you out for these tasks because you're female. If you had proof this was the case, it would be another matter. Because you find these tasks demeaning, consider looking for another job because this may not be the place for you.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of 15 years is in prison. We have two children together. Our relationship has been rough. We had a fight, and he went to jail for it. Another reason he went to prison is he violated his probation and failed to report.

I take the kids to see him, and he still wants us to be together. He has nowhere to go when he gets out. How do I tell him I don't want him back at my house without him retaliating on me? -- AFRAID IN TEXAS

DEAR AFRAID: This is how. Tell him plainly that because of the circumstances that sent him to jail, you no longer want him living under your roof. It's bad for the children. Therefore, he will be finding other living arrangements when he is released.

He may not like it, but please remember you owe him nothing. You have to stand your ground for your children's sake. Should he stalk or threaten you in any way, go to the police. Tell them you are afraid of him and why, and ask about a restraining order because he is violent.

DEAR ABBY: When my husband and I eat a meal, as soon as he's finished he gets up and wanders around. We call that the "wandering" phase of his meal. I have asked him to no avail to stay seated and talk with me. I think it is disrespectful.

My husband also pulls out his phone when we are out with friends. I have told him that what he's doing is basically telling them he would rather see what's on his phone than converse with them. He doesn't do it for the entire meal, but when he does, it irritates me. How can I get basic manners across to him? -- LONELY AT MEALTIME

DEAR LONELY: I knew a person years ago who had an impulse control problem similar to the one you describe your husband having. The man had been in an auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. In your husband's case, it appears he either has attention deficit disorder or "suffers" from a lack of consideration for your feelings. There is help for the former, but you can't teach basic manners to someone who doesn't want to learn. You have my sympathy. Try not to let it give you heartburn.

DEAR ABBY: I work as a parcel clerk in a major retail store. The biggest part of my job is returning shopping carts from the parking lot to the lobby. Shoppers have a habit that makes my job a lot harder than it needs to be, so I want to get this message out to as many people as possible:

PLEASE push your shopping cart ALL THE WAY into the next one when you put it away. I'm not asking you to bring your cart all the way back to the store. Just remember that each cart can nest into the one in front of it.

You have no idea how much faster I could do my job if everybody did this. Thank you for helping get the word out. -- PLEA FROM THE PARKING LOT

DEAR PLEA: Glad to help. And as long as we are on the subject of shopping carts, may I add that those cute little straps that are meant to secure small children in the upper compartment of the cart tend to get caught and lock the carts together if folks are careless after they unhook their children. It can be next to impossible to untangle those carts. I speak from experience.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for 15 years. Before we married, I purchased a house. He moved in a month after our wedding and made a lot of improvements to it. We are now in the process of doing more renovations.

His mom moved in with us two months ago. Before she moved in, the plan was to take the downstairs -- which has a living room and a bedroom -- and convert it to a bedroom and a room leading out to a patio to have another entrance to our swimming pool. But she wants to decorate that room with her furniture and use it when her friends and family visit her.

My husband says, "She is 77. She doesn't have many more years left, so let her do what she wants." He always adds, "I can tell her she isn't wanted and find somewhere for her to go, but I don't know where it would be." I have always given in, but he doesn't see it that way.

Should I let someone come into my house and redecorate it differently than how I want it? Please let me know if I am being selfish like he says. -- INVADED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR INVADED: Let me get this straight: Your mother-in-law will occupy the downstairs of your home while you and your husband occupy the upstairs? If she wants to decorate her bedroom and the room in which she entertains her visitors, it won't be a reflection of your taste, and frankly, it shouldn't be. It is understandable.

What is clear to me is that you really don't want her living under your roof. Because your husband can't -- or won't -- do the research to find reasonable alternatives for his mother, the task of finding something suitable is yours.

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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