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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My sister, "Frannie," and I are both professionals, married to men who are complete opposites. My husband, "Grady," is a blue-collar guy who never attended college. He has many wonderful qualities, but lacks self-esteem. He has a good, stable job and is more "street smart" than "book smart."

Frannie's husband, "Austin," has a graduate degree and a professional career. He is also a "know-it-all" who loves to flaunt his knowledge to everyone, especially to Grady. This makes my husband feel insecure and makes it difficult for us to be around Austin and Frannie.

I have told my sister how we feel. She says I need to talk to Austin about it. If I do, it will cause a huge argument. I just wish Austin could be a little less boastful and a bit more humble. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? -- FRANNIE'S KID SIS

DEAR KID SIS: Before I offer any, has it occurred to you that Austin may be even more insecure than your husband, and your sister is a wimp? It is not your "job" to teach her husband social behavior -- that's what a loving wife does when her husband does something obnoxious. And Austin's behavior falls into that category.

Perhaps, if you point this out to Grady, it will help him feel less insecure around his windbag of a brother-in-law. Educated people who feel good about themselves do not have to show others how smart they are. In fact, they are so adept at sharing their knowledge that they can converse with anyone on any level without the person feeling talked down to.

DEAR ABBY: What do you think of marriages where the husband and wife merely tolerate each other and have little emotional connection? In our situation, my wife seems to accept that our marriage "just is," but I feel that marriage should offer more.

I would press for a divorce except for the fear of making matters worse. In this case, no children are involved. It's doubtful that counseling would change a thing. Do we just stick it out after 25 years of marriage? -- LOVELESS IN GEORGIA

DEAR LOVELESS: Marriages in which the spouses "merely tolerate each other with little emotional connection" are called marriages of convenience. I'm sad to say they are not uncommon. Some couples who have drifted apart have been able to reconnect through a program called Retrouvaille, which began in 1977 in Canada. Although it is Catholic in origin and orientation, it is open to all married couples regardless of their religion.

I have mentioned Retrouvaille in my column before. It consists of a weekend, plus a series of 12 presentations that take place over the following three months. The program is run by three married couples and a priest. The "team couples," all of whom have experienced disillusionment, pain and anger in their own marriages, share their personal struggles, reconciliation and healing.

Before you decide whether to continue living in an emotional desert or chuck the marriage entirely, ask your wife to attend a Retrouvaille weekend with you. It might be the spark you need to get your relationship going again, and it has worked for many other couples. For information on programs in your area, call toll-free 1-800-470-2230 or visit

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-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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