DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I both got divorced about the same time, but his took much longer to become final. It is finally over, so we have begun talking seriously about marriage and starting a family.
During one of our conversations, he mentioned that his ex-wife doesn't intend to change back to her maiden name. I was shocked because she took advantage of him financially and was emotionally abusive all during their marriage. They had no kids, so it has nothing to do with her wanting to share the same name with them. They were married only a few years, so she isn't well established under that name, either.
When I asked him why she wasn't changing it, he told me she said his family was always nicer to her than her own. I suggested he ask her to adopt another last name of her choosing if she doesn't want to go back to her maiden name rather than be falsely associated with a family she is no longer a part of (or welcome in). He won't consider taking on my last name, so I'm thinking about keeping my own maiden name after our marriage until she changes hers. Am I overreacting, or are two "Mrs." too many? -- SOON TO MARRY IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SOON TO MARRY: You are overreacting. When a man has divorced, his ex can retain his last name if she wishes. Some do it because they think it may be to their advantage socially to be associated with the family. I have heard of others doing it because they didn't like their maiden name.
Please keep in mind that after your wedding you will -- if you wish -- become "Mrs. John Smith." The ex can use the last name, but will have to use HER OWN first name with it (Ms. Jane Smith) without reference to your husband.
Of course, if you wish to keep your maiden name, you are free to do it -- many women do. But if you make that decision, please do it for any other reason than because of the one you put in your letter to me.
DEAR ABBY: My mother used to go nuts anytime the cameras came out. No matter the setting, the celebration or how lovely she looked, Mom would fling her hand up and yell, "Get that thing out of my face!" even when other family members were in the shot. One day, in exasperation, I finally told her, "Ya know, Mom, someday the only pictures your descendants will have of you will be of an angry, scowling woman."
Abby, please remind your readers we aren't trying to persecute them when we want a picture. We just want to hold, share and save photos of the people we love the most, and the kindness and love in their eyes shouldn't be obscured by their hands. -- FINALLY GOT THROUGH TO MOM
DEAR FINALLY: Although we live in a self-promoting and selfie culture, many individuals feel the way your mother does -- like a deer in the headlights when a camera is aimed their way. That said, the point you made was valid, and I am pleased that she listened. It is for that reason I'm printing your letter.
DEAR ABBY: After two years of dating, my boyfriend and I recently got engaged. We're in our 30s and grew up in the same town. It will be a second marriage for both of us. We were each previously married close to 10 years. I have four children; he has none.
He loves my children like they are his own, and they love him. His family was nice to me at the beginning, thinking that it wouldn't last. I know they aren't fond of the fact I have four kids, and they think he should find a woman who doesn't have any.
We have been very happy together, but when we got engaged, his family got very upset because he didn't ask them how they felt or tell them he was going to do it. I think they would have discouraged it immediately.
I feel awful because he's very close with his family. He always backs me 100 percent, but I don't want to tear them apart. I don't want him to not want to see them. He's very family oriented, and it breaks my heart that he wants all of us to be close. They aren't outright rude, but they make me feel uncomfortable, like I'm not good enough for their son/brother.
All of a sudden, his brothers/sister and their spouses have stopped talking to me. They have deleted me on social media. We have never gotten into an argument or anything, so I'm at a loss. Should I marry him? -- GETTING THE COLD SHOULDER
DEAR GETTING: This is something you and your fiance must decide together with your eyes wide open. You say his family hasn't been outright rude, but I beg to differ. Making people feel uncomfortable, giving them the silent treatment and unfriending them is rude.
These appear to be extremely controlling people. You need to decide if you can coexist with in-laws like this, and your fiance needs to decide which family is more important -- the one he will form with you and your children, or the one he was born into. He may not be able to have both. You have my sympathy.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a sophomore college student who has finally settled in with a group of friends I love and really connect with. However, one girl in our group throws full-on temper tantrums where she cries, storms off or exerts negative energy to the point that it ruins the night for the rest of us. These fits of temper seem to be caused by anything and everything, and have reached a point where my friends and I feel anxious being around her. What do we do? And how do we deal with someone who cries at the tiniest of perceived "slights"? -- EXHAUSTED IN COLLEGE
DEAR EXHAUSTED: The behavior you have described isn't normal. The girl appears to be extremely fragile emotionally. Whoever is closest to her should point out to her privately that all of you are concerned that her outbursts may be a sign of depression, and suggest she talk to someone at the student health center about them.
DEAR ABBY: A dear friend and her husband were at a Broadway theater production. Because of a spinal cord injury, she uses either a walker or wheelchair. During intermission, when she went into the ladies room, the line was quite long. Not one woman offered to let her move ahead. What's the protocol? I thought each person in there should have deferred to her.
I had tickets the same night, and when I saw her in line I walked up and asked her if I could intervene to move her in faster, but she said she didn't want to bother anyone. I stayed with her and didn't speak up because I didn't want to embarrass her. I would appreciate your view on this. -- TRYING TO HELP
DEAR TRYING TO HELP: My view is that someone with an obvious disability should be offered the next available stall, and if the person uses a walker or a wheelchair, the handicap stall should be offered to her.
DEAR ABBY: Something happened at work that has me traumatized. I work at a retirement house for a convent. The nuns are sweet, kind and easy to get along with. But last week while I was using the bathroom, a nun decided to be a Peeping Tom while I was on the toilet. She laughed at me in a taunting manner saying, "I can see you!" I screamed at her to stop, but she just kept looking and laughing at me. When she finally left, I was in shock.
I reported the nun to my supervisor as soon as I could, but later in the day I was still so humiliated and upset that I ended up having an anxiety attack. I can't stop thinking about it. It left me feeling disgusted with the nun and with myself.
I want to report her to the police, but I don't want drama at work. This is my only source of income. I need my job in order to provide for my kids, but I no longer feel comfortable working in a place where there are perverted nuns who don't respect people's privacy.
What do I do? I'm confused and angry, spending my days in my home crying and contemplating whether to file a police report. Please give me some advice. -- TRAUMATIZED IN THE EAST
DEAR TRAUMATIZED: I hope you realize that the behavior the retired nun exhibited is that of a 4-year-old. She may suffer from dementia. While the woman may have had good judgment in her younger years, clearly she does not now. It may be the reason she is living in that retirement community.
I'm curious about how your supervisor reacted when you told her what happened. If you cannot move beyond the trauma, talk to the director of the home and ask for counseling so you can regain some perspective. Filing a police report may not be the way to go.
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are getting ready to retire. We are both employed and will have continued access to health insurance through our employers in retirement. My insurance covers her even if I predecease her, unless she remarries.
My wife now says she wants to carry her own health insurance because she feels she might want to remarry sometime after my death. Her new interest about remarrying bothers me, and I feel somewhat guilty about that.
What has me depressed is the question of who she would want to be buried beside -- her new husband or me. We have been married for 38 years, and the possibility of having a final resting place without her seems very lonely and like I am being rejected. It almost feels like a divorce. These are thoughts and feelings I can neither shake off nor rationalize. Your thoughts? -- LIFE GOES ON
DEAR LIFE GOES ON: Your wife is trying to keep her options open, which, although it isn't sentimental, makes sense. There are no guarantees that if you predecease her, she will be swept off her feet, so you may be worrying needlessly. If you haven't told her how you feel, it might put your mind at ease if you do.
DEAR ABBY: My husband invited his good friend (an artist) to stay with us for two nights because he is coming to our city to give a speech. He accepted.
We tried to contact him two weeks ago, one week ago, three days ago, yesterday and this morning to find out what time he'll arrive so we can plan our schedule and prepare the food. He still hasn't gotten back to us. I had planned to go to church and a concert afterward. My husband doesn't want me to leave.
I am very frustrated about the man's lack of consideration. My husband considers him a good friend, but after the way we are being treated, I'm not convinced. -- STILL WAITING IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR STILL WAITING: I don't blame you for being miffed. Good friends don't treat each other so rudely. They answer their messages and show up when they're expected. Unless the man was in the hospital, solitary confinement or dead, there's no excuse for his poor manners. Because your husband considers him a good friend, he should have stayed home to welcome "the artist" and let you off the hook.
DEAR ABBY: My husband of 10 years is in the process of retiring from the military and is now re-evaluating "procedures" and "policies" of everything -- including our marriage. I'm trying to respect his needs in an effort to help him make sense of things. However, there are times when I feel some of his new rules are hurtful or harmful and need to be negotiated or evaluated. (By the way, in general, I do not encourage or support the idea of "rules" in marriage aside from fidelity; communication should be the rule in my opinion, but I digress.)
His latest rule is that I need to be covered when getting ready in the morning ("It's not proper to be so comfortable naked, and if you respect me, you would do as I ask"). He said he thinks I look amazing now, but then he added: "Think about when you are your grandmother's age; you won't be pleasant to look at."
As his partner, I feel we should make each other feel comfortable in the buff, and it's harmful to ask our partner to cover up for any reason in the sanctity of our home. We have no children and live alone, and I have always gotten ready in the mornings this way, behind closed doors, where no one but my husband can see me. Abby, can you guide us to resolution on this matter? -- NOTHING TO HIDE IN GEORGIA
DEAR NOTHING: As a military man, your husband is used to rules and structure, which are necessary in that environment. This, however, is civilian life. Before allowing him to make any more rules or institute a change in dress code (undress code), allow me to "guide" you directly to the office of a licensed marriage counselor because, unless there is something you have omitted from your letter, your husband is a mile off base.
DEAR ABBY: Recently my middle sister started dating my younger sister's ex-boyfriend. My younger sister dated this guy in college (10 years ago) and really cared for him. It ended when she found out he had cheated on her. Younger sister is now married and has a small child.
Middle sister started dating this ex a few months ago and really likes him. He has been over to see my parents, and they are supportive of the relationship. The problem is, no one wants to tell my younger sister for fear of her being mad.
I talk to her almost daily. I'm afraid that once she finds out, which is bound to happen, she will be more upset with me (and my parents) for hiding it from her than the fact that they're dating. Should I tell her or is it not my place?
I don't want to feel like I am lying or hiding anything anymore, but I also feel like my middle sister should admit it, which she said she isn't ready to do because she doesn't want to say anything unless this turns into something serious. What should I do? -- CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: From where I sit, you have sized the situation up accurately. Your younger sister will be mortified when she realizes that everyone knew her sister has been dating the ex for months and it was kept from her. Talk to your middle sister. Insist that the sneaking around stop, because it could cause a permanent breach in the family.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old girl and recently came out to my parents, who are stuck in the "it's just a phase" mindset. I used to be able to talk with my mom about everything, but now when I talk about my sexuality, she gets quiet and dismissive. It's frustrating. I understand I'm still young and learning things about myself, but I feel like I don't have their support as much as I used to. Help! -- NEEDS SUPPORT IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR NEEDS SUPPORT: What your mother may not realize is that children usually know they are gay long before they find the courage to talk about it. Young people who receive negative messages about what it means to be gay are -- not surprisingly -- less likely to be open about their sexuality because they don't want to disappoint or be negatively judged.
You might be able to talk more effectively with your parents if you contact PFLAG and get some information. This is an organization whose mission is to help LGBTQ people and their families build bridges of understanding. The website is pflag.org.
DEAR ABBY: I have a problem saying no. I live 45 minutes from work, and because I'm a friendly person, people constantly ask me to give them rides. Today, two co-workers who live nowhere near me asked for rides home. (I already gave one a lift to work.) Another asked me to take him to the grocery store. I like being helpful, but this happens all the time and it's too much. Tonight I'll be more than an hour late getting home.
I was raised with a strong sense of moral obligation and good manners, but I'm tired and just want to go home. I feel guilty for even thinking this. What do I do? -- YES-GIRL IN THE EAST
DEAR YES-GIRL: You should not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Saying no does not make you a bad person.
There are ways to get the message across without seeming heartless. One would be to tell the truth -- that you are too tired, you have something else planned or you don't want to be an hour late getting home. While it may seem uncomfortable in the beginning, with practice you will find it empowering.
DEAR ABBY: My middle-aged younger sister is 12 months into a midlife crisis. She has divorced her husband and abdicated her role as a mother, preferring instead to be a buddy to her teenage sons. She has started sleeping around, smoking pot and drinking -- a lot. Needless to say, our family is very concerned.
This behavior is nothing like her. When she does take our calls, she lies about what she's doing. We have caught her doing it, and so far we have just held our tongues. I'm unsure whether confronting her about her behavior would help or hurt her.
I love my sister and always will, but I have lost a lot of respect for her, and our relationship has been damaged. Should I tell her I know she is acting reckless and being dishonest? -- HELPING OR HURTING IN THE SOUTH
DEAR HELPING OR HURTING: Yes! By remaining silent you are enabling her to continue.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ken," decided to have his mother move in with us without first asking me how I felt about it. I don't want to be insensitive. I know she has nowhere else to go. The problem is, she's the most domineering person I have ever known. If she enters a room and doesn't like a picture, she'll move it or get rid of it without asking.
When I tried to warn my husband that this wouldn't be easy, his response was, "You just don't like my mother." I do like her, but I don't know that I can live with her. I feel like my marriage is hanging by a thread. Any advice? -- SERIOUSLY STRESSED-OUT
DEAR SERIOUSLY STRESSED: Your mother-in-law is acting like YOUR house is HER house. Set her straight. And if your husband tells you, "You just don't like my mother," tell him that it isn't that you don't like her; it's that you don't like the way she's acting and you will no longer tolerate it.
DEAR ABBY: When is it appropriate to correct someone's spelling and/or punctuation errors? Our pastor writes a message in our church's monthly newsletter and invariably makes several grammar or spelling mistakes. The church secretary also makes mistakes in our weekly bulletin and never catches the pastor's errors. In addition, the day care personnel at our church make mistakes in the written lessons for the children.
I have offered to proofread for our pastor and secretary, but they never take me up on my offer. I grew up in a time when accuracy mattered, but nowadays many folks think that if one can make oneself understood, that is good enough. I'm interested in what you would advise. -- FUSSY WRITER IN MARYLAND
DEAR WRITER: You were kind to volunteer to edit the bulletins and newsletters, but you can't force the pastor and church secretary to accept your generous offer. However, because young children model the behavior of the adults around them, my advice to the parents would be to remove theirs from any program in which the day care personnel are so poorly educated they can't use proper English.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband for 22 years. We've been together for 26. We've had our ups and downs, and separated for three months back in 2008, but we went to marriage counseling and got back together.
I have recently realized that my husband is an accomplished liar and has been from day one. To top it off, he lies about stupid things, which makes me wonder what important things he's lying about. When I express my feelings about this, he swears he will never lie again, blah blah blah -- and damn if I don't catch him again! Is this marriage doomed because he can't stop lying? And how do I trust anything he ever says to me? -- UNTRUSTING IN MARYLAND
DEAR UNTRUSTING: Successful marriages are based on trust and communication. Yours is in serious trouble.
Most people who lie do so because they are trying to make themselves look better or are not proud of whatever it is they are attempting to cover up. However, those who lie about "stupid" things may be compulsive liars who can't control the impulse. If your spouse falls into this category, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help him overcome his problem, but there are no guarantees.
DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother, my daughter, her boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Las Vegas. Because of the costs involved, we are considering sharing a room with two queen beds. The plan would be for me and my mother to share one bed, and my daughter and her boyfriend to share the other.
My wife thinks this is weird -- that my mother and I should share a bed. I explained that it will be a queen bed, and I don't understand why she thinks it is strange. This will save us around $1,000 that a second room would cost. What do you think? -- RALPH IN OHIO
DEAR RALPH: Is saving the money more important to you than privacy, comfort and propriety? Your wife may have been thinking along those lines when she suggested the "boys" sleep with the boys and the "girls" sleep together. Before rendering an opinion, I'd have to know what your daughter, her boyfriend and your mother think about this arrangement, because unless you all agree, it might make more sense to request a cot or bring an air mattress with you.
P.S. If one of you gets lucky in Vegas, maybe you can afford a second room.
DEAR ABBY: After years of nagging about thank-you notes, this is how I'm encouraging my younger family members to acknowledge gifts: We have the child create a big thank-you note or draw a picture, hold it with a big smile along with the gift and take a photo, which we send electronically.
We made a rule that they can't play with the gift until the thank-you is done, and even little folks understand it. It's fun and immediate. They usually get a quick note of appreciation back, and the giver gets a keepsake of the occasion. -- NEW AGE GRANDMA
DEAR GRANDMA: That's a wonderful idea, not only because it utilizes technology, but also because it requires SOME effort on the part of the little ones. Good for you.
DEAR ABBY: My 25-year-old niece still lives at home. She works full time and attends college online. She's a hard worker who doesn't do drugs or engage in risky behavior.
I pay her a bonus for every A she earns, and I also pay for her health insurance. While I gladly pay the college bonuses, I have misgivings about continuing to pay for her health insurance, even though I can afford it. She doesn't make much money at her job, but she goes out to restaurants and bars often, attends concerts and takes trips out of state three or four times a year.
When I was her age, I also went to college, worked a low-paying job and lived with my mother. Although I went out with friends often, I never wasted money on those other things -- especially vacations. Should I continue paying her health insurance for her? I don't know if I'm being judgmental or enabling irresponsible behavior. -- PROTECTIVE IN HOUSTON
DEAR PROTECTIVE: You are obviously a generous person, but yes, you are being judgmental. Your niece is working, studying and living a clean and healthy life. You had a social life when you were your niece's age; you should not begrudge her having hers.
Going to restaurants, bars and concerts is normal for a young woman her age. However, if you prefer not to subsidize the vacations because you feel they are excessive, discuss your feelings with her before deciding what to do.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have lived like nomads for the last few years. We have bought, sold and moved many times for all sorts of silly reasons. Our 5-year-old daughter finally started school, yet we don't feel at home here. We now realize buying and selling may not be for us, so we are renting, but we still aren't happy.
We moved here to be close to my oldest and dearest friend, whose kids are now grown, and to my sister, who hardly talks to us or sees us. My husband's sister and her husband's family love us and treat us well. They have suggested we should move by them. They have kids our daughter's age. The only issue is possibly not finding a good home or school. Private school could be an option.
Would another move be bad? Should we make a final move before our daughter gets vested in school and friends? It would put us within walking distance to several families we spend a lot of time with and who love us very much. We are afraid of judgment from everyone. Please help us sort it out. -- HOPEFUL NOMADS IN ILLINOIS
DEAR NOMADS: Forget about the judgments. You will survive them. The older your daughter becomes, the more difficult moving away from the people she knows will be for her. If you are going to move to an environment more compatible for you, your husband and your daughter, the time to do it is now, so her education and social relationships will not be as disrupted as they would be when she is older.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a widowed senior who has been dating a very kind man, "Ben," for three years. He's retired; I am not. He does things for and with me, and we enjoy traveling together.
The problem is, Ben usually starts drinking about 3 p.m. at the neighborhood bar. I'm welcome to join him, but I prefer to work at my job or volunteer in the community. By the grace of God, Ben has made it home safely every night, but I'm afraid he will eventually hurt someone.
My son came home for a month because of a job change, and tonight he found Ben passed out in the front yard. I told my son I was sorry, and he said not to be, but he does not want his family -- my grandchildren -- around when Ben is like this.
I am so embarrassed. I would miss this relationship, but I'm wondering if you think I should end it. -- MISSING THE GOOD IN HIM
DEAR MISSING THE GOOD: It must have been clear to you for some time that Ben has a serious drinking problem that needs to be addressed. Whether you should end the relationship depends upon whether he is willing to admit that he has a problem and is willing to do something about it.
Because Ben's drinking is now affecting you and, by extension, your family, it's time to confront him and give him a choice -- get help or find another lady friend. There are Alcoholics Anonymous groups worldwide and in almost every community. Steer Ben in that direction, and while you're at it, locate the nearest Al-Anon group for yourself. You will find it both sympathetic and helpful. These groups are as close as your phone directory or your computer. Visit al-anon.org.
DEAR ABBY: I recently utilized a national ancestry company to determine my heritage. I also provided kits to my adult children thinking it would be a fun exercise we all could share. Unfortunately, my good deed came with unexpected consequences.
According to the results, my youngest son isn't related to me. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, my ex-wife had an affair 25 years ago.
What do I do now? Should I confront my ex to verify the affair and learn the identity of my son's father? How do we tell my son? Should we? How do we handle our families? Keep it a secret? I would appreciate your guidance. -- UNKNOWN FAMILY TREE
DEAR UNKNOWN: Before making accusations or announcements, it is important that you determine the accuracy of the test to make absolutely sure the results are conclusive. If a second test verifies the first, your son should be informed because he has a right to know his familial medical history -- and HE should talk to his mother about who his biological father is.
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