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Wife Wants to Cut Off Chapters From Husband's Endless Tales

DEAR ABBY: A friend of mine complains that her husband, who's in his 80s, talks far too much in social settings. She says his ramblings and storytelling threaten to ruin their social life, which consists of small, private dinners and the occasional cocktail reception. She says if she doesn't shut him up, their friends will shun them because they've heard all his stories before. However, he has either forgotten this -- or relishes so much in the telling that he repeats them anyway.

To fix this, she's preparing a written list of subjects -- family, job, etc. -- that he's absolutely forbidden to discuss when they're socializing.

Some who know about this think it's a good idea and the only way for her to avoid more embarrassment and discomfort. Others feel it's an insult to her husband, and the real risk is not the couple's social standing, but her own marriage.

Who's right? -- CURIOUS IN KENTUCKY

DEAR CURIOUS: I wish you had given me more information in your letter. Was the husband always this way? Could it be that he's become forgetful, or has had some small stroke? Or is he just a chatterbox who loves the sound of his own voice? At the very least, he needs a complete physical and mental status examination.

It's unrealistic to believe this man will carry his wife's list with him at all times and consult it before opening his mouth. Besides, true friends will reflect upon his positive traits and the friendship he has bestowed upon them in the past if his stories are repetitive or boring. And there is no law that says topics that have been discussed before can't be discussed again.

Whether the marriage will withstand her criticism depends upon the extent of his tolerance for her criticism. But he's a little old to trade her in.

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