DEAR ABBY: My husband and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary next year. However, we conceived our first child four months before our marriage. We had always told our families that we were married six months before the actual date. We were both 18 years old and met when we were 15. Neither of us had ever had another partner, and we've had a good life together.
We raised four children (all married) and have four grandchildren. Nonetheless, we felt embarrassed and ashamed. We did not want our children to think we were promiscuous, and we feared that history might repeat itself.
Our children are planning a 40th anniversary party next year and are sending us on a trip overseas. My husband wants to tell them the truth because he feels guilty lying about the actual marriage date when they plan this expensive gift.
Abby, do you think we should tell them the truth, or leave it alone? -- NAMELESS, PLEASE
DEAR NAMELESS: I see no reason to bring this up now. I suggest you "leave it alone."
DEAR ABBY: I am writing in reference to a very short letter from "On the Spot," who wanted to know what to say to nosy people who ask, "Isn't it about time you had kids?" when you aren't planning on having any. Your answer was on target; however, I think "On the Spot" was really hinting at a much larger issue -- people assuming that everyone wants a spouse and/or children.
My husband and I struggled with our decision not to have children for three years before his vasectomy. During that time, I began to dread the family get-togethers that used to mean so much. Subtle hints and flat-out blunt questions were present in every holiday visit. This additional pressure was almost unbearable. Finally, I decided enough is enough -- the next person to ask will get an honest answer instead of being "tuned out."
My sister-in-law "Marge" (who has a habit of speaking without thinking) asked, right before the birth of her second child, when she could send the maternity clothes to my house. I thought her jaw was going to break the way it fell to the floor when I said, "Never" and changed the subject.
I've found it's a lot less stressful to speak my mind and make a few waves than to hold in my comments and feel my blood boil. I would like to remind people to THINK before they speak. Sometimes silence is much more comfortable than personal questions in an attempt to "make conversation." -- NOT A TALKER IN NEBRASKA
DEAR NOT A TALKER: I agree with that philosophy. Some people ask questions as a means of carrying on a conversation and getting the other person talking. However, they should take care that the questions are tactful and not too personal. Asking people why they don't have children is definitely out of bounds.
Believe it or not, being a good listener will do more for someone than being a glib talker.
CONFIDENTIAL TO "TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK": "The ideal marriage is not one in which two people marry to be happy, but to make each other happy." (Roy L. Smith, 1887-1963, Methodist minister)
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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