DEAR ABBY: My wife, "Cynthia," and I are a middle-aged couple who have been married four years. Shortly after our wedding, she suffered a stroke during a heart transplant. After she returned home from the hospital, a "friend" told her I was having an affair (I wasn't). Without telling me why, Cynthia threw me out of the house and returned to a distant state to be near her family. She had most of her belongings shipped there.
After I presented proof of my innocence a year later, we reconciled. The first couple of years of marriage were chaotic, and I know I wasn't perfect. But I did the best I could and stood by her throughout the medical ordeal.
Now, Cynthia is saying I should have to pay to have her items shipped back simply because I'm "the man." Abby, we have roughly the same income due to pensions. We have always kept our finances separate. I think she should pay to have her own items returned because she is the one who shipped them over there based on a lie. The money itself isn't the issue; it's the principle. I feel like this is a slap in the face. What do you think? — MR. NICE GUY
DEAR MR. NICE GUY: You shouldn't have to pay for anything "because you're the man." You didn't cheat, and you aren't responsible for the fact that Cynthia overreacted and ran away the way she did.
You say that until now you have kept your finances separate because you each have your own incomes. My advice is to refuse to be manipulated. Your wife should pay to have her belongings returned, just as she paid to have them sent away without verifying whether the story was true.
DEAR ABBY: When I was a child, my dad told me, "If it weren't for you kids, there are so many things your mother and I could have." What I remember most was the intensity in his voice.
When I was old enough to work, I had a job after school so I could pay for my own clothes although my family wasn't poor. My father repeatedly let me know I was "lucky" I didn't get taken out of school to help support the family. When I graduated from high school at 17, I immediately went to work, and I paid for my board.
I married at 18 to get out of the house and paid for my own wedding. It never even occurred to me to ask for help. When I ended up divorced, I worked my way through college. When I graduated, my mother had to make my father go to my graduation because he didn't want to.
I have never been able to shake the feeling that I don't have a right to anything, and I'm not good enough. My other siblings are a mess, too. How do I shake this feeling of not being worthy? — WORTHLESS IN FLORIDA
DEAR WORTHLESS: Children develop their feelings of self-worth from their parents. It appears at least one of yours was missing in action from the time you were little.
I don't have a magic wand, and I can't make the negative message your father implanted in your head disappear. On the upside, your upbringing made you independent, if only out of necessity. It may take help from a licensed mental health professional to make the scars from the way your father raised you fade.
DEAR ABBY: Five years ago, my older brother had an accident and needed to live at my parents' house while he recovered. He brought along his 4-year-old dog, "Pepper." The dog needed to be on a special diet.
My father, who is a major alcoholic, enjoyed having Pepper there, but because he is an alcoholic, you can't tell him anything he doesn't want to hear. Because my brother had been seriously hurt and was in a hospital bed and wheelchair, my father fed the dog. Despite my brother's pleas, my father fed Pepper whatever he wanted — including chocolate. It made Pepper very sick, and he was dead within three months. The vet said it was because of what my father fed him.
My brother blew up at my father. He called him every name in the book, concluding with the comment that my father was a filthy drunk who deserved to die in the gutter. Despite his injuries, my brother left the house and has never spoken to us again. Regrettably, my mother and I were both dependent on my father and didn't want to anger him, so we took his side.
A month ago, I decided to track my brother down. He is now married and lives out of the country with his wife, daughter and in-laws. My brother told me he's sorry for not staying in touch with me, but he no longer wishes to speak to our parents. My mother is pressing me for information, but I am afraid to tell her and my father much of anything. Should I tell my parents about my brother? — ABANDONED SISTER
DEAR SISTER: I'm guessing your parents wouldn't be pressing you for information if you hadn't revealed to them that you found your brother. If that's the case, that was a mistake. If you must reveal anything, tell them your brother is well and happy, but hasn't changed his feelings about them and still wants no contact.
DEAR ABBY: I just received a brief, friendly email from my husband's grandmother. In it she asked me if our newest addition was "a good baby." That phrase is a pet peeve of mine.
When she was talking about how my mother-in-law wasn't a good baby, I told her that all babies are good babies. I may not be as upset as I am by her using those words if she wasn't terrible with children (e.g., overly strict, too-high expectations) and if she didn't have a knack for getting into fights with and complaining about nearly everyone.
I want to respond to her email, but I can't bring myself to agree with the premise that the possibility exists that my infant, or any infant for that matter, could be anything other than a good baby. I also don't want to start a fight with her that would seem petty, and I don't want to blow off her email. What should I do? — INCENSED IN INDIANA
DEAR INCENSED: In the interest of whatever family harmony is left intact in "Granny's" wake, limit the drama and give her a brief reply that doesn't refer to "good babies" — something like, "It was good to hear from you." Period.
DEAR ABBY: How may I delicately encourage my delightful European boyfriend to wear deodorant? I am not the only one who has noticed. He is otherwise very hygienic. — HOLDING MY NOSE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR HOLDING: Consider approaching the subject this way: "You know, 'Jacques,' here in the United States, we have some 'peculiar' standards of personal hygiene" ... then explain what they entail. Yes, body odors are "natural," but not if they knock someone over from four feet away.
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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