DEAR ABBY: I just found out my husband of 18 years has been going to "hook-up" websites. He says he was just looking at the pictures, but I don't believe him. I have caught him cheating twice in the past, so it's hard to trust him.
My problem is, he knows I can't leave him because I have no job, no skills, no money -- nothing. I went right from my parents' house to living with him after our wedding. We have six kids and one on the way. He will continue to go to these websites because he knows I am stuck. What should I do? -- SOON-TO-BE MOTHER OF SEVEN
DEAR SOON-TO-BE MOTHER OF SEVEN: The first thing you should do is see your doctor and be checked for STDs. If you are well, thank your higher power. If you aren't, get treatment, get well and talk to a lawyer. Your situation may not be as hopeless as you think.
Have you any relatives or friends you can stay with when you leave, change your life and become self-supporting? It may require job training and time, but please consider it.
I doubt your husband will have much time for philandering if he has six kids to take care of by himself in addition to his job. I also doubt that few, if any, women he might be hooking up with would welcome becoming the instant mother of six. And one more thing, from now on, please use birth control.
DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced for 30 years. During this time, my ex-wife has rarely spoken to me, and in the last 10 years said not one word to me. There have been many occasions and events at my son's home to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday, etc. My ex and many other people attend, but basically, no one speaks to me. I am totally ignored.
I have a strong hunch that during the divorce my ex told people I hit or abused her. (Not true!) She told my sister something to this effect. I believe it was a ploy to distract from the fact she had been cheating on me. Regardless, this situation is extremely hurtful and unpleasant. Any ideas how to deal with this? -- OSTRACIZED AND PARALYZED
DEAR O. & P.: Have you tried to initiate a conversation? Have you asked these people why they give you the silent treatment? They're fair questions.
After 30 years, it is a little late to correct the mindset your ex may have caused these relatives to have about you. But if at this late date you try to spread the word that she was cheating, it will accomplish nothing positive, and I don't advise it.
P.S. If the silence continues, then I recommend you bring someone -- a friend or a date -- with you to these gatherings. At least you will have someone to talk to.
DEAR ABBY: I have an acquaintance I see occasionally. He recently told me he is getting married. When I congratulated him, I wanted to ask who the lucky groom is because I have often thought he was gay, but I found out he's marrying a woman. What's the appropriate way to ask this question nowadays since all of us can marry, I am happy to say. -- PONDERING IN NEVADA
DEAR PONDERING: A subtle way to ask that question would be, "Congratulations! What's your lucky fiance's (-ee's) name?"
DEAR ABBY: My son got married eight months ago. I recently found out he and his wife haven't sent thank-you notes to anyone. Some of our friends and family took time off work, traveled across the country, spent a lot of money on airfare, hotels, meals, as well as wedding gifts. I am mortified.
Abby, there were only 60 guests, so there were fewer than 30 thank-you notes to send. When I asked my son about it last week, he said they hadn't sent them because so much time had passed and it was too late. I told him it was inexcusable, and they need to get those notes written now because this is definitely a case of better late than never.
If they don't do it within the next week, I intend to contact my friends and family and thank them myself and apologize for their rudeness. My son was not raised to be ungrateful and rude. What do you think? -- FURIOUS IN ARIZONA
DEAR FURIOUS: What you have in mind may be well-intentioned, but it won't make up for your son and daughter-in-law's lack of courtesy. If they fail to contact the guests who made such an effort to attend their wedding, do not speak up on their behalf because it will only make them look worse.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated to a warmer climate a few years ago, putting us more than 1,000 miles away from my adult children. The kids all seem to think this trip was just for fun, and continue to ask me to "come home."
All three of them are busy with their own well-rounded lives, and the last few years we were there, their visits became less frequent and shorter. We are now in a state that is much more economical than our home state, and our health and well-being have greatly improved. How do I let them know, once and for all, that I AM home? -- LOVING THE SOUTHWEST
DEAR LOVING THE SOUTHWEST: A way to let them know would be to explain that the move has been a positive experience for you and your husband, so much so that your health has improved. Tell them the added bonus is that your living expenses have gone down, and with them, any stress about finances.
Let them know they are welcome to visit when it's convenient for all of you. But do NOT make it about the fact that when you lived close by, their visits became fewer and shorter, which would be regarded as a guilt trip. If you have other friends and relatives where your children live, it's likely you may be visiting that area occasionally, too.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I recently gained custody of my younger half-brother after a nasty legal battle with my father and stepmother. While we abhor what led to this, we are delighted my brother is in our home and our lives. With the exception of his parents, so is everyone else in our families.
My brother will be coming with us to family gatherings that include my dad and stepmother. Most of the family is not privy to the circumstances that led to this situation, and I'm sure questions will come up. My brother has PTSD from it, and talking about it right now is difficult for him. He's in therapy and receiving help, but how can we dissuade potentially upsetting questions without things being weird? -- PROTECTIVE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR PROTECTIVE: A way to accomplish it would be to have a private talk with your relatives before these events. Explain what happened and that your brother is receiving help but is in too much pain right now to answer any questions, which is why you prefer the subject not be mentioned.
DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to "Not Just Mary, in the South" (Nov. 10), the lady whose name is Mary Lou but is continually called only Mary, even though she prefers being called by her full name. I had the same problem.
My name is Mary Ann, but I was constantly called Mary, which I HATED. To solve the problem, I combined the names and started writing my name as one word -- Maryann. Since then, I have never again been called Mary.
By the way, when I also had to give the initial of my middle name, because the "A" was no longer available, I started using "B," which is the first letter of my maiden name. Mary Lou should try this, and I hope it is as effective for her as it was for me. -- MARYANN IN TENNESSEE
DEAR MARYANN: I'm printing your letter because it included the most frequently mentioned suggestion by other readers, and also because it makes perfect sense. Thank you for sharing.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a public school teacher with a word of advice to parents who wonder why their children misbehave, argue with them and act out with attention-getting behaviors: PUT DOWN YOUR CELLPHONES AND PAY ATTENTION TO THEM!
I just finished a parent-teacher conference with a mother whose children argue, pout and scream when she tells them to do something at home. Her children are not disabled, nor do they demonstrate these behaviors in my classroom. Abby, during the entire meeting, that woman texted on her phone. How rude!
The next time I meet with someone who pulls that, I'll ask if she (or he) would like to suspend the meeting until their pressing business (pun intended) is finished. Maybe the parent needs to be embarrassed in order to realize how inappropriate texting or talking on the phone is when she (or he) is face-to-face with another person unless the other person says it's OK. -- HAS TO VENT
DEAR VENT: Vent away. I agree that what the mother did was disrespectful. It prevented you from effectively giving her information about her child that she needed to know.
As great a benefit as technology has been to society, it appears to also be a double-edged sword. By that I mean, while it fosters communication, it has kept parents from bonding with their toddlers and young people from learning to effectively communicate with each other face-to-face. The ultimate result of this is yet to be determined, but I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of people finding a balance so they can form healthy relationships. I hope your letter will serve as a wake-up call to someone who needs a reminder.
DEAR ABBY: My 40-year-old son has been in a volatile on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who has physically and emotionally abused him repeatedly. He's an Iraq War veteran with issues of his own, including a previous marriage and messy divorce from a narcissistic woman. They share custody of two grade school-age children. The current woman has grown children, plus a pre-teen boy (with issues also). The last time they split up, my husband made it clear that she would never be welcome in our home again because of her violent temper. We don't condone that behavior.
Our son has now decided he thinks he "loves her." He wants us to give our blessing, including having her in our home and being one big happy family. We are sure this "reunion" will come with her assurances that she has changed, and it will never happen again.
Abby, we want our son to be happy, but we recognize that a leopard doesn't change her spots. We also don't want our young grandchildren in a toxic environment again. What should we do? Please don't tell me he needs to go to counseling because he says he is. Help! -- SEEING CLEARLY IN NEW YORK
DEAR SEEING: When you stated that your son is asking you for your blessing, including having this woman in your home and being one big happy family, did he mean LIVING there with you? If that's not the case, you can bless it, but your answer should be no if it means they will live under your roof. It would be healthier for all of you if they have living arrangements of their own. That way, you can see her only when she is on her good behavior, and if she backslides, the drama won't be in your home. The added bonus is that your son will have a refuge if he needs it. (I'd give anything to know how his therapist views this.)
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been together for 30 years, married for 20. We have two sons living at home, a 20-year-old who works full-time and a 17-year-old who is graduating from high school in the spring.
I have been offered a transfer to Australia by my employer -- a transfer I had asked for. When we discussed it in the past, everyone was all for it. My oldest can likely stay with the multinational hotel chain he works for now, and I can get my youngest a decent career in my field of work as there is a tremendous shortage of skilled labor in Australia.
Now my wife tells me she can't leave her family, especially her father, who has Parkinson's. I have told her she can expect to return every summer to our condo on the beach and an additional two trips per year.
Abby, I thought our vows meant we would be together forever, wherever. My employer will soon begin the process of opening the Australian office, a process I will be part of and likely train the new hire. I am bitter and resentful toward my wife, and it is affecting my attitude toward her. I love her, but I am struggling to get over the fact she is denying me a very lucrative opportunity. Advice? -- LOSING OUT IN CANADA
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DEAR LOSING OUT: It's time for you and your wife to put your heads together and work out a solution. By that I mean you should accept the lucrative business opportunity you have been offered, AND your wife can take care of her father as long as she needs to. Unless his condition is critical, she can visit you and your sons periodically so it shouldn't put too much strain on your marriage. I hope you will consider it because the kind of resentment you are feeling now can destroy a marriage.
DEAR ABBY: I moved in with my boyfriend, "Greg," three years ago into the tiny but very economical house he rents. It's cheaper than all other rentals in our area and allows us to save for a home of our own one day. However, after many months, I have discovered to my dismay that our landlord is the mother of his ex-girlfriend. And the ex is acting manager of the property we live on! This means that, for as long as I've lived here, Greg's ex and her mom have been in frequent contact with him and are an inescapable part of our lives.
Greg gets along fine with them and doesn't want to move because of high rents elsewhere, but I'm very uncomfortable with the awkwardness of our living situation. Am I being too sensitive, or should my boyfriend never have lived there in the first place? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Now, now ... let's keep our eye on the goal line. Your boyfriend's objective (and yours) is to save enough money to eventually own a place of your own. His ex and her mother are a means to an end. It would be a big mistake not to recognize that they could be charging far more for your lodgings. Concentrate on that and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
DEAR ABBY: I recently hosted a large family for a week in our home. On our last day together, the mother asked if she could run "a quick load" of laundry. I said OK, figuring she might be running low on unmentionables.
Abby, she did FIVE large loads of laundry and spent half of our last day together folding everything up and packing their bags for home. I wouldn't deny anyone a quick load, but I think she took advantage of me. I was very disappointed that our last day together was wasted doing laundry. Is this a "thing" now? Your thoughts, please. -- HUNG OUT TO DRY IN ARIZONA
DEAR HUNG OUT: You were trying to be helpful, and the woman did take advantage of your generosity by mischaracterizing her intentions. If, however, you had other plans for the last morning of the visit, when you saw her start her second (or third) load, you should have spoken up and drawn the line.
DEAR ABBY: I am in a 14-year marriage, but there has always been another woman, "Emily," I have thought about almost daily the whole time. My wife and I have just turned 40. We have no kids, but we have a dog. I always thought I would want kids, and we tried half-heartedly, but there is no real intimacy to this day. I kiss her goodbye in the morning and, for years, that's been it.
Emily is all in on a relationship with me still to this day. We had a great relationship with great sex, and I miss all of that. I'm struggling about the right thing to do, partly because I know the pain this will cause.
My wife and I still have good times together with friends, but when we're home, it's like we're just best friends with no benefits. One of the last times we had sex, she ended it abruptly. The flame I felt for her is gone. I feel like I should go the other direction because she wants kids and still loves me deeply after all these years. Please advise. -- WRESTLING WITH IT IN WISCONSIN
DEAR WRESTLING: Clearly you have never stopped talking to Emily. Quit "wrestling" and talk with your WIFE. She may have ended your last sexual encounter because it was physically painful or because she no longer feels emotionally connected to you.
The person who can help you determine what to do next is the woman to whom you are married. Whether this marriage is salvageable is debatable, but this I do know: A healthy marriage takes TWO committed individuals, and in this case, one of them (you) has been missing in action.
DEAR ABBY: I am an older woman who finally got fed up with my husband's cellphone addiction. Since he would no longer speak to me but spent all his time scrolling on his device, I went out and bought a realistic-looking baby doll. When he pulled out his cell, I pulled out my doll. I talked to it, fiddled with its buttons and carried it everywhere. He finally yelled at me, "It's not real!" to which I replied, "It's real; it's just not alive. LIKE YOUR CELLPHONE."
This final scene was played out in the dining room of our country club, which was filled with members. The phone and "baby" stayed in the car after that. We laugh about it now, and she's resting comfortably in her carrier, just in case she's ever needed again. -- THOUGHT I'D SHARE THIS
DEAR THOUGHT: I hesitate to endorse implied threats in marital disagreements, but your solution worked -- brilliantly. So who am I to argue with success? Congratulations!
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