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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You had a letter in your column concerning a husband who didn't speak to his wife for three months because she told him that she felt he was being too harsh with their son. He also was punishing her by refusing to have sex with her.

I hope you told his wife to deal with this behavior immediately, because it will not get better by itself. It will only get worse. If it isn't stopped now, 25 or more years down the road she will still be a victim of this childishness -- and it also will have an effect on the children.

They should get counseling. If she ignores this behavior, she'll become more of a doormat and look back at 40 years of misery. She'll have no self-confidence left and will be emotionally damaged forever. I know. -- BEEN THERE FOR 47 YEARS IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR BEEN THERE: I advised the woman, who signed herself "Confused in Pennsylvania," that she should first try to discuss the cause of their "misunderstanding" with her husband, and if necessary, seek joint marriage counseling to resolve their problem. I also told her that if her husband refused to go, she should go without him in order to repair her self-esteem.

Another reader offered some insight into the husband's punitive and selfish behavior. This reader said she would not be at all surprised if the husband was involved with another woman, and was using his wife's criticism as an excuse to feign anger and avoid having sexual relations with her, while enjoying her cooking services, laundry services and frantic efforts at reconciliation. Now, isn't that food for thought?

DEAR ABBY: Many times I read letters in your column from people complaining about what some "insensitive" person said to them in the market, etc., about their adoption, their disability, hair, size, color, cars, or anything else noticeable. Most recently, it was about the number of children (too many) a woman had.

You know what that is called? MAKING CONVERSATION.

When people are standing next to each other in a long line, they often feel like reaching out to make a connection, like in the old days when people looked one another in the eye when they passed on the street.

How are you supposed to start a conversation when you don't know anything about the other person? You look for signs to latch onto. Read any book about starting conversations, and you'll find that's how they get started.

Why not take the opportunity to welcome their reaching out, and if there is a real problem, gently correct them? Most individuals do not start conversations with the intention of being rude or insulting. The reality is you do have more kids or longer hair, or are taller than average or whatever else it is they are "insulting" you about. Their pointing it out is not what made it so.

Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. If you respond with something positive, and guide the conversation from there, "doing time" in line can become a few moments of pleasant connection with a fellow human being. Who among us have lives so full we don't have room for a brief dialogue with someone we don't already know? -- TEFLON TINA IN HAMBURG, PA.

DEAR TEFLON TINA: Your viewpoint deserves consideration. More friendships and (romances) have begun in line than on-line.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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