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Fearful Child Dreads His Summer Visit With Dad

DEAR ABBY: I am 10 years old and live with my mom, my sister and brother in Texas. My grandparents and my aunt live nearby, and they come over a lot. They are always telling me how important it is to visit my dad and his family in Chicago and to have a good relationship with them.

Abby, I spend six weeks with my dad every summer -- and I don't want to go there any more. Dad never keeps his promises to me, and he is always threatening me with "the belt." I am afraid of him. My Chicago grandparents tell me they love me more than my Texas grandparents, but they don't call me very often, and I hate that they say bad things about my mom.

How can I get out of visiting my dad next summer? -- SICK OF VISITING MY DAD

DEAR SICK OF VISITING: If you haven't already done so, tell your mother how you feel and why. Your mother should speak to your father and explain that his form of discipline is not only not working, but it's driving you away and is emotionally abusive. She should also speak to the lawyer who represented her in the divorce about the visitation arrangement. Perhaps your visit should be supervised. Please show your mother this letter.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old college senior. My live-in fiance, "Ray," is 31 and divorced. We have an infant son together. His three children, all under 12, are with us every other weekend.

When I entered this relationship, I had no concept of the tremendous responsibilities I would be taking on. Besides a full-time class schedule, I take care of our baby, cook every meal and clean the house. I also look after Ray's kids when they're here.

Because of our age difference, I sometimes feel that my values and goals conflict with Ray's. I want to focus on my career, but Ray feels my household duties should come first. I do not want to be the only one shouldering the burden. I want to have a professional life after I graduate. Ray does not make me feel appreciated, and I need advice about what to do about it. -- OVERLOADED AND UNDERVALUED IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR OVER/UNDER: You and Ray appear to have different priorities. You want a career; he wants a housekeeper and baby sitter for his children. Ideally, your fiance should be helping you to achieve your goals. If you cannot fully express your feelings to him and arrive at a compromise, it may be time to re-evaluate your feelings about this entire relationship before it goes any further.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are discussing divorce after only eight months of marriage. Neither of us is happy, and I guess we weren't as ready as we thought we were. I feel terrible about the $20,000 my parents spent on our wedding, not to mention all the beautiful and expensive gifts we received from family and friends.

Should we pay my parents back the money? What should we do about the gifts? Please help us do the right thing. -- NOT HAPPILY EVER AFTER IN TEXAS

DEAR NOT HAPPILY: I commend you for wanting to do the right thing. Any gifts that have not been used should be offered to the people who gave them. Cash gifts that have not been spent should be returned. Offer to repay your parents for the wedding expenses, but it should not be necessary. The wedding was their gift to you.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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