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by Abigail Van Buren

Reception Deception Leaves Father Doubting Son's Word

DEAR ABBY: My son was married last month. Before the wedding, he asked me if I would contribute financially to the reception. I offered to pay for the drinks, and he and his fiancee seemed appreciative. The bride's parents are divorced, but they, too, have each contributed several thousand dollars to the reception.

A few days before the wedding, my son informed me that the total cost of the beverage bill came to nearly $3,000. I wrote a check for that amount.

My son's bride told my wife that there would be some extra charges, so I telephoned the accountant at the hotel to get the exact amount. The accountant informed me that there were no extra charges, and the total bar bill was less than half the amount I had contributed. My son refused to discuss the matter, so I sent the invoice from the hotel to him and his wife two weeks ago. Since then, there has been total silence on their end, and it looks like a cold relationship is developing. My wife says I should forget about the extra $1,700, since they probably needed the money for other expenses. I maintain there's an ethical issue here that shouldn't be swept under the rug. What do you think? -- CHEATED FATHER/FATHER-IN-LAW IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CHEATED: I agree with you. There is the ethical issue of honesty. You were right to let your son and his bride know they couldn't "pull the wool" over your eyes. Their silence indicates their embarrassment and probably an inability to repay the money.

Write a note telling them you'll accept payments on the installment plan. Then bill them every month until they have paid off the debt.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 18 years and have three children. Last spring, my husband moved out to "find himself" and promised he would be back. Well, he found a lady "friend" with whom he's been spending a lot of time, drinking and partying. He never did this before.

When he went camping alone with this woman, it was more than I could take. He said nothing happened. I didn't believe him and filed for divorce. He has nothing to do with me now, and not much to do with the kids. I know it's probably over, and I'm having a hard time accepting it. I have very little self-esteem. Do you think I should try to get him back or accept the situation and get on with my life? He has changed so much that I don't really like him anymore, but I want to do the right thing for the kids' sake. He refuses to give up this woman -- she even comes before the kids.

Abby, what do you think? -- HURTING IN FARGO, N.D.

DEAR HURTING: After 18 years, you know your husband very well. Since he refuses to give up the woman and try to revive the marriage, you have no choice but to go on with your life.

During a long marriage, sometimes it's hard to distinguish between where you leave off and your spouse begins. It's important that you now allow time for yourself. The better you become reacquainted with yourself, and the more independent you become, the more your self-esteem -- and your life -- will improve.

If the going gets rough, talk to your friends, your minister or a counselor. Although it's hard to start over, and it will take some time, you will get over this unhappiness and emerge stronger for it. Trust me.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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