DEAR ABBY: I'm not sure how to handle a problem I have when I call my sister. I love her dearly. Not only do I want to talk with her, but I NEED to talk with her. We live in different states and rarely get to see each other.
Almost every time I call her, I get very frustrated because I feel like I'm talking to a mother who has a 2-year-old child begging for attention. However, it isn't her child -- it's her husband. He gropes at her and talks in her ear while we try to make conversation. It's very distracting for her and irritating to me.
Since I work during the day, I have to call in the evening. On weekends I never know when he'll be home. How can I handle this? I haven't called her in weeks and I feel guilty about it. -- PERPLEXED ON THE EAST COAST
DEAR PERPLEXED: Unless your timing is terrible and you have a knack for catching your sister and her husband in an amorous embrace, or he finds the ringing of a telephone sexually stimulating, I'd say you have him pegged correctly.
Other than telling your sister how his actions make you feel, there is nothing you can do. This is a boundary problem she will have to handle.
In the future, ask her to call YOU when she has some privacy.
DEAR ABBY: I am 16 years old and having trouble finding a way to tell my parents that I'm a lesbian. Every day I wish I could find the courage to say, "Mom, Dad, I'm gay!" but it's a lot more complicated than that. They are very religious, and I have seen firsthand how they react to homosexuality. That's why it's going to be so hard to break the news. I don't want to tell them, but I know that I HAVE to in order to get on with my life. What should I do? -- TRAPPED IN GEORGIA
DEAR TRAPPED: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Some parents feel that homosexuality is a choice, and that by coming out, their child is being defiant. Parents like that have been known to throw the child out or make life so difficult at home that the child becomes a runaway.
Your know your parents better than I do. If that description applies to them, postpone your announcement until you are out of high school and self-supporting.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Erin," recently married her boyfriend, "Doug," after a four-year, on-again/off-again romance. Doug's a nice guy, but verbally abusive when he drinks. The next day, Doug conveniently "forgets" what he said or how he behaved.
Erin is frightened by Doug's threats when he's drunk. She's afraid one day he will carry them out. Abby, my husband and I don't want to be interfering in-laws, but we're concerned for our daughter's safety. Would it be out of line for us to talk to him and suggest he get help? -- FEARFUL IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR FEARFUL: I don't recommend it. It would only make him defensive. Unless your daughter draws the line, there is nothing to prevent his behavior from escalating -- and mark my words, when it does, he will also conveniently "forget" what happened.
Please urge your daughter to go to Al-Anon (it's listed in the phone book) and gain the information and support she needs to handle this. No one can do it for her.
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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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