DEAR ABBY: I am a 27-year-old woman who has been dating my boyfriend for a number of years. As exciting as the thought of marriage sounds, it is also scary. Too many times I have heard that a couple separated because they had "grown apart" or "grew in different directions."
How does a couple go about preventing this from happening? There have to be things we can do to protect ourselves against this -- but what are they? Your advice would be appreciated. -- SKITTISH IN MAPLE GROVE, MINN.
DEAR SKITTISH: Couples grow apart when they stop talking and listening to each other, when they fight instead of disagree, and when they forget the reasons they married in the first place. They also run into trouble if they're not on the same page before marriage about how to handle money, whether they are sexually compatible, and how their children should be raised.
Premarital counseling is helpful in bringing out these issues, and some churches now insist upon it. Intelligent people get to really know each other before taking the leap, as you and your boyfriend have already done. However, even longtime couples need to make sure they have all their cards on the table before embarking on the sea of matrimony, and to fully recognize they cannot change the other person.
DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, "Amanda," I met last year at school. I consider her my best friend, and people comment on how we're always together.
Amanda's family doesn't have much money, so when she tells me she's broke I don't hesitate to give her money. I have bought her meals and movie tickets, too. It wouldn't bother me if she ever said a simple "thank you" or "please" to me.
My parents have noticed it, too. They are annoyed that Amanda has never thanked them for letting her spend the night. My dad recently commented that it's rude that she never says "hello" to him when he comes home and she is there.
What can I do about Amanda's manners? Am I wrong to be bothered by her lack of them? I don't want to lose her as a friend, but it's something I can't seem to let go.
-- LITTLE MISS MANNERS
DEAR L.M.M.: More is lacking in Amanda's household than money. Think about it. Where did you learn the basic social graces? From your parents, of course. The reason for Amanda's poor manners is that she was never taught otherwise.
Have a talk with your friend and explain what the rules are in your household. You don't have to be mean when you do -- and you'll be doing her a favor.
DEAR ABBY: From time to time you print helpful hints from readers, and mine could possibly save some families from incurring an expensive plumbing repair.
I have been married and divorced twice. As a younger man, my wives and I always flushed our cigarette butts down the toilet when in the bathroom. One day, we had a serious plumbing problem -- our toilet overflowed. After getting the plumbing bill we found out all the cigarette filters had eventually closed up our sewer line. It was a costly lesson I hope other smokers will heed -- and I'm not even mentioning the risk of cancer. -- SMARTER NOW IN THE U.S.A.
DEAR SMARTER NOW: I won't mention the subject of cancer either. Thank you for your helpful suggestion, as well as the reminder that toilets were not intended for the type of butts you were flushing.
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