DEAR ABBY: When I date a man, I wine and dine him with gifts and candlelight dinners, but they never seem to be appreciated. Not only that, none of them ever do anything for me. I am always being stood up, heartbroken, used or taken advantage of.
What am I doing wrong? What do men want or look for in a woman? Also, should I be dating men who are separated? -- LONELY AND CONFUSED, COLUMBIA, MD.
DEAR LONELY: You're giving too much, too soon. Most men want a challenge and enjoy the thrill of pursuit. If you take that away from them, they take you for granted.
Men who are separated are still married. Moreover, they are just coming out of a bad experience. Unless your idea of a pleasant evening is hand-holding and commiserating, a good rule of thumb is to look for someone who hasn't recently been burned.
DEAR ABBY: I need some love advice. I'm scared of making a commitment to the man of my dreams. He's my sister's ex-husband.
I always knew I liked him, but now I know I love him. He and my sister were married for only a year and a half, and they have been divorced for three years. I have three small children and am currently in the middle of a divorce myself.
Can I break that unwritten rule about not dating the exes of your sisters or girlfriends and still feel like a good human being? -- CONFUSED IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR CONFUSED: Much depends on the degree of bitterness in the failure of your sister's marriage. Are they emotionally as well as legally divorced? Were there children involved? How mature is everyone involved? If the answers to my questions are: no, yes, and not very -- accept that a union with this man will cause World War III in your family and be prepared to pay the price, which will be a bitter rift.
DEAR ABBY: My mother passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer. She lived in our home; we were her caregivers, and her absence is mourned every day.
My problem is my mother's family. I have called and written to them, but have had little response.
My 90-year-old grandmother came to our home a few weeks after Mom died and went from room to room taking inventory of things she wanted her "boys" to have. She then called and gave me an additional list of "family" items she wanted for sentimental reasons. I know there is more to it than sentiment. My mother had these things for 40 years, but for some reason, it's not OK for me -- her adopted daughter -- to keep them.
I realize they were only "things," but my hurt is palpable because they represented a family connection I thought I had all these years.
I knew I was adopted, but it took my grandmother to make me realize that in her eyes adoption means "unworthy." Any advice would be appreciated. -- FEELING UNWORTHY IN TEXAS
DEAR FEELING UNWORTHY: Your grandmother's behavior is appalling. Has she always been this way, or could she be suffering from dementia? If she has all her marbles, then please note that the items your mother brought to your home were hers regardless of who covets them -- and cannot be removed without your permission. Did your mother have a will? Did she have an attorney? Please discuss this with a lawyer -- and if necessary, a grief counselor to help you during this difficult period. You have my sympathy for the loss of both your mother and your illusions about the people you considered to be your family.
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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