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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My sister set me up with a friend of hers named "Darryl" who turned out to be the nicest man I'd ever met. We have dated for four months, and there is only one problem. He has been divorced for three years, but spends most of his spare time with his former in-laws.

Darryl couldn't take time to meet my son and daughter-in-law because he had to go to his ex's nephew's football game. He spends every holiday with them, provides for them financially and lets them use his cars. When his ex-wife is going to be there, they tell him not to come over.

Is Darryl obsessed with her parents? Does he hope his ex will come back, even though she left him and remarried?

My sister mentioned he was close to his former family, but isn't this carrying it too far? I'm confused. Please help me understand. -- CONFUSED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR CONFUSED: Consider this. He was dumped by his wife but still gets emotional support by clinging to his former in-laws. If he were as interested in you as you are in him, he would spend less time with them and more with you. I recommend you lower your expectations, because Darryl does not appear ready for a serious relationship with you or anyone right now.

DEAR ABBY: I left my husband after 20 years of marriage, asked for a divorce and got it. My ex was very upset, but did not fight it. Our two older children are in college. The youngest is 16 and a high school senior. She was very upset at the time we separated.

Although I was the one who wanted the divorce, I realized later that it had not been a wise decision, and I asked my ex to come back. He agreed.

The problem is our 16-year-old. She does not think it's a good idea. She doesn't say why, just that she "feels that way." She had a good relationship with both of us, but she does not want us to get back together. She doesn't come to church with us, and she doesn't like to see us together. I don't know how to deal with this. Any advice? -- CONFUSED IN MARYLAND

DEAR CONFUSED: Please don't make your daughter's problem your own. You say she is a senior in high school. That means she should be leaving for college in the fall. Why are you allowing her to dictate your future?

Family counseling for you, your daughter and your ex-husband might be helpful to improve the level of communication among you and would be a wise investment. Please don't wait.

DEAR ABBY: Technology is wonderful. We have so many useful gadgets at our fingertips. I am wondering about using them properly, especially e-mail.

My father-in-law died recently and many chose to e-mail their condolences. Is this tacky, or am I just being too picky? -- SNAIL MAIL VS. E-MAIL

DEAR SNAIL MAIL: We live in an age where e-mail is an accepted form of communication. It's easy, it's fast and it's cheap. It is also better than nothing. I know you are hurting, but please don't look down your nose at anyone's expression of sympathy. It may not be formal or fancy, but I'm sure it was sincere.

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