DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I fight a lot. It has been going on for a year now. Every day we have an argument in which we yell, scream and put each other down. The language gets very ugly. These episodes are triggered by trivial things. We resolve these arguments by ignoring each other or by going to sleep. The next day, it's as if nothing had happened and we're fine until the next argument.
Our families and friends have no idea, since we're very private about our fighting. They all think we're a "perfect" couple and frequently ask about our wedding plans. I don't want them to know because I feel embarrassed about our behavior.
We both grew up in emotionally abusive homes and both sets of parents are divorced. I was abandoned by my father and my boyfriend was abandoned by his mother. We don't want to end up like our parents, but I'm afraid the cycle is continuing. We want to marry and have children, but I'm afraid of how our family would turn out if we did.
I am depressed and stressed because of this. We love each other very much and want to get help to change our behavior, but money is tight. We're both college students and can't afford therapy. Any advice, Abby? -- IN LOVE AND FIGHTING
DEAR IN LOVE AND FIGHTING: Go to the student health center and ask to speak with a counselor. Free or low-cost counseling is offered to students on most college and university campuses. You and your boyfriend need to understand what is triggering these outbursts and learn to constructively vent your frustrations.
Since you both recognize there is a problem and are willing to work on it, I'm sure it can be solved. I commend you for wanting to do something about it before this relationship goes any further. That's mature thinking. I wish you both the best.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have taken several vacations with his mother ("Jane") in the past. Because last Christmas was her first holiday as a widow, we took her with us to the Caribbean. The trip was a disaster. Jane complained incessantly that she didn't like the island because it wasn't as nice as her home. I told my husband that I wouldn't spend another vacation with her because she ruined it for all of us.
This year we planned a vacation to Maui where my sister-in-law lives. We planned on keeping this a secret because we wanted to go with just our immediate family. Unfortunately, our daughter spilled the beans.
Jane now plans to go to Maui at the same time we'll be there. We are staying in a home and will have an extra bed. I am worried that she will stay with us, or plan to spend all the time with us and ruin another vacation. My husband does not want to tell her she is not welcome to come along because he's afraid it may destroy their relationship.
Abby, we work very hard and look forward to spending our annual week's vacation with our children. How can I let Jane know she is not welcome to come with us? -- DESPERATE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
DEAR DESPERATE: Face it -- you can't. Your daughter spilled the beans and you are stuck. There's no way you can tell your mother-in-law you don't want her to join you without causing a rift, so be a good sport. If I were you, I'd start looking for a place where Jane could stay in Maui -- someplace close to you that's "as nice as her home." Better luck next year.
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