Dating starts to cause cracks in circle of three best friends

DEAR ABBY: I'm 18 and was best friends with "Sam" for two years until we started dating 10 months ago. It has been so much fun. He is the first person I have truly loved.

When we first started dating we weren't exclusive, and he hooked up with my best friend. We all go to school together and see each other every day. Since then, I'm uncomfortable being around her.

I have expressed my feelings to Sam, but there's nothing we can do. I often feel hot and cold about our relationship and get close to breaking up with him. I have considered therapy, but my family can't afford it. What can I do so I don't hurt myself and him?

— HURTING IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HURTING: You didn't mention what you and this young man plan to do in the fall, but if it involves continuing your education, your paths may diverge at that time. In the meantime, you and Sam should be free to see others because, if your emotional needs were being met, you wouldn't be blowing hot and cold about the relationship.

DEAR ABBY: I started sucking my thumb when I was 1. My parents tried for years to break my bad habit, but it wasn't until I started going to slumber parties at 16 that I stopped.

I am now 27, and a few months ago I woke up with my thumb in my mouth. Since then I have caught myself sucking my thumb in the middle of the night. It seems to happen when I'm really tired.

I am now in a committed relationship and would die of embarrassment if my boyfriend saw me doing it. How can I stop once and for all?

— WET THUMB IN THE SOUTH

DEAR W.T.: I have heard from other adults who suck their thumbs, so comfort yourself with the thought that it's not all that unusual.

One way to fix the problem would be to not allow yourself to get overly tired. Another would be to coat your thumbs with a bitter or bad-tasting substance at bedtime. (Some people find the taste of nail polish deters them from thumb-sucking.) You could also apply hand cream and wear cotton gloves to bed. However, if that doesn't do the trick, simply level with your boyfriend and ask him if it's a deal-breaker.

P.S. You were able to quit the habit for 11 years. Something triggered your return to it. Consider keeping a journal to identify what is going on before your thumb-sucking episodes so you can gain insight into what may be causing them.

DEAR ABBY: I haven't been in a relationship since 1995. Is it true when they say, "Use it or lose it," and does it hold true for women also?

— WANTS TO KNOW IN INDIANA

DEAR WANTS TO KNOW: I think the answer to your question may depend upon what "it" is.

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