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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I just got back from visiting my dad and stepmother in another state. We are the only ones in the family who don't live in close proximity, and we get to see him only once a year. Dad is elderly, and I know my time with him is limited.
Apparently, his marriage is in a shambles and they are on the verge of divorce. He comes home only to sleep. The rest of the time he finds places to get away from her and her constant arguments.
The time we were there was tense, unpleasant and, frankly, a waste of time and money. I wasn't able to spend more than five minutes with Daddy without my stepmother trying to pick a fight with him.
My husband and I decided it was best to make excuses and fly home early. Now I don't know how I can see my father without my stepmother. Because he didn't tell me his marriage was on the rocks (I was told by my siblings), I'm not sure how to broach the subject of making alternate arrangements to meet him so we can talk and spend time together without all the drama.
My husband thinks it may cause more problems with his wife, but I don't know how else to avoid being in a war zone. Have you any suggestions or advice? I just want to spend time with him in the time he has left.
- Daddy's girl down South
DEAR DADDY'S GIRL: Now that you have been in the "war zone," the cat is out of the bag. Because your stepmother was such a distraction you had no quality time with your father, consider staying elsewhere and having him spend time with you away from the house. Alternatively, if he's able to travel, offer to send him a ticket to visit you and your husband for a few days or a week without her. That's cheaper than plane fare for you and your husband to visit him.
Contact your siblings and find out if your father plans to spend the rest of his "limited" time married to your stepmother, because the stress of the hostility in their household could shorten his life. If he plans to divorce her, one of the places where he should seek refuge is his lawyer's office. And because your father hasn't been forthcoming, be sure to ask your siblings to keep you more fully informed about the status of his health and his marriage. As his daughter, you have a right to know.
DEAR ABBY: My fiancee, "Tara," has a problem with social boundaries. She was home-schooled most of her education and missed out on a social life.
Recently, a male friend of mine quit talking to both of us because of her behavior. When I talked with him about it, he said Tara makes him uncomfortable. She doesn't understand where friendly joking stops and serious flirting starts. She gave him the impression she wanted to start an affair, so he walked away.
Tara has been open and upfront about everything. She doesn't lie. It's like she doesn't know any other way to interact with the opposite sex, and it's spooking me before our wedding. I don't want to have to be my fiancee's constant social monitor.
What can I do to help her with this? Are there social classes for late bloomers?
- Freaked-out fiance in Ohio
DEAR FREAKED-OUT FIANCE: I don't blame you for being "freaked out" because Tara's behavior must have been blatant for your friend to avoid both of you. My advice is to put your wedding on hold until you, a female relative (or two) whom Tara respects and will listen to, or a counselor is able to make her understand the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. If you proceed as things are, the next letter I receive from you may be from "Freaked-Out Husband."
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.