DEAR ABBY: My husband committed suicide 2 1/2 years ago. We had been married for 13 years and had two daughters who are now 15 and 9. The l5-year-old seems to be doing fine. The 9-year-old is not.
But my biggest problem is my live-in boyfriend, "Tim." While I love him and mostly enjoy his company, he appears to dislike my 9-year-old. She needs male attention because her dad was an attentive, wonderful father. I have discussed this with Tim. His response is he has a hard time doing it because she is "totally out of control and crazy."
Abby, she is none of that. She is a child with a lot of energy. I don't know what to do. I know it isn't fair to my daughter, but I'm lonely and miss Tim when he's not there. I'd appreciate any advice you can give me. -- TRYING TO MOVE ON IN OHIO
DEAR TRYING: I am so sorry for your loss. However, parents get only one chance at parenting, which is why it's so important to do it right the first time. What is happening in your household is unfair to your daughter. She should not be forced to live with a man who doesn't like her and can't give her positive reinforcement. That's why, for her sake, it would be better for you and Tim to live apart. If you choose him over your daughter, you will later regret it and could cause her serious emotional problems for decades.
DEAR ABBY: The holidays are right around the corner, and my husband and I have had a difficult couple of years financially. I'm a full-time student; he is the only one bringing in an income while we raise two young boys.
I love the holidays -- except for shopping for others. I hate spending money I don't have looking for that perfect gift for everyone on my list. More often than not, the gift ends up being re-gifted or in the summer garage sale. For the past two years I have asked that if people want to give gifts, to please give them to the kids and leave us adults out of it. My requests have been ignored.
I know for a fact that my extended family is as strapped for cash as I am, but they charge on credit cards. Should I refuse a gift I can't reciprocate or thank them and try not to feel guilty? The name exchange option didn't work. I feel there should be more to the holidays than going into debt for gifts. -- MA HUMBUG IN OREGON
DEAR MA HUMBUG: I agree with you, and so would credit counselors coast to coast. Thank your relatives for their gifts. Reiterate that money is tight, so you will be giving gifts to the youngest family members only. If you feel you must reciprocate in some way, whip up a batch of holiday cookies or fudge brownies, wrap them with a colorful ribbon and make that your holiday gift.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for six years. Before I met him, I was with a woman. I don't want my husband to find out about it because I'm afraid it will turn him on and he'll want to have threesomes. (He enjoys looking at lesbian porn.)
Should I feel this way about telling him? -- WANTS MY PAST IN THE PAST
DEAR WANTS YOUR PAST IN THE PAST: If you think there is a chance that your husband will find out, then the person he should hear it from is you. And if he suggests having a threesome, tell him that you are happy as things are and you prefer to remain monogamous.