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DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "John" for 18 years. We have two children. Four years ago, he found out that he has a son a year and a half older than our oldest. My children welcomed "Ricky" and so did I. Now the problem:

John wants us to treat Ricky like family, but Ricky doesn't have to treat us like family. We never hear from this child; only my husband talks to him. When Ricky visits, John waits on him hand and foot and acts like the perfect father. He pretends he doesn't hear Ricky make rude comments about me and my children. Ricky can tell John that one of my children -- or I -- said something to upset him, and it is automatically our fault, no questions asked. If Ricky wants money, I am not consulted. I am told we are sending it -- regardless of the amount.

I understand John may feel guilty for not being in Ricky's life all those years, but that's not our fault. I think that if Ricky doesn't accept us, then we should be left out of it. But when he comes here, John wants us all to be present. Why should we be there for the rude comments? If I say anything about it, John says I don't love his child. I no longer say anything when he visits, afraid of being yelled at for not being "fair" to Ricky. I can't get John to see that my children and I want to be part of both their lives, but without walking on eggshells. Help! -- TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IN ARIZONA

DEAR TRYING: You have already been far more tolerant than many spouses would have been. When John accused you of not "loving" his child, you should have responded: "You have made it very hard for any of us to love him because you tolerate his rudeness to me and our children. And further, I don't like the person you become when he's around."

Yes, your husband may be overcompensating for the years he never knew the boy existed, but has it occurred to you -- and John -- that perhaps the boy is punishing you for having "had" his father all those years, not to mention manipulating John?

Before this unhealthy situation goes further, I strongly recommend that you, your husband and Ricky have some sessions with a mental health professional who specializes in family therapy. Your marriage could depend on it.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 25-year-old female who is frustrated with people asking me about my love life. I am successful at work, own my own car and home, and have a great social circle. When I'm talking with both males and females during introductions, one thing always comes up. "You're too pretty to be single! I'm sure you can hook a man."

I don't know how to respond politely to this. I have gone on many dates where men become obsessive and controlling, and I end it very quickly at the first signs of this behavior. What should I say to people who keep inquiring about my love life? I feel they are trying to measure my success as a person by my marital status. -- SINGLE AND SUCCESSFUL IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR SINGLE AND SUCCESSFUL: When someone tells you you're too pretty to be single, respond by smiling and saying "thank you." (I'm sure it's intended as a compliment.) And when they comment about your ability to "hook" a man, tell them that's exactly what you plan to do when you meet the right one, but so far you haven't met him. Then change the subject by asking the questioners about themselves.

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