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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Suspects Boyfriend Is Hiding an Inability to Read

DEAR ABBY: I began dating "John," a few months ago. We are in our 60s and went to the same high school.

John is a good and decent man. He says he is in love with me and wants to marry me. There's just one problem: John can't read. He has never admitted it, but several things have happened that indicate it.

I don't want to hurt him, but this has turned into a big problem for me. I just cannot believe that this could have continued for such a long time. I have a master's degree. I'm not hung up on degrees, but I at least expected to be with someone who was literate. Can you advise me? -- J.J. IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR J.J.: Considering how well John has been able to manage all these years without having learned to read, it shouldn't come as any surprise to you that many illiterate people develop clever coping skills to hide their problem. There is help for your friend -- if he is willing to admit he needs it. John may be dyslexic or have another learning disability. But there are special classes for adults in his situation. Many libraries offer literacy classes for adults.

Granted, there are disadvantages to not knowing how to read, chief among them that it prevents someone from enjoying my column. But what you must decide is whether you can love a man who is obviously street smart rather than formally educated. It doesn't have to be a cause for rejection unless you choose to make it one.