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by Abigail Van Buren

Outgoing Wives Learn to Live With Their Homebody Husbands

DEAR ABBY: I am writing about the letter from "Socially Obligated in Pennsylvania" (Oct. 4), whose fiance, "Joe," refuses invitations to events from her family. My niece married a well-educated man who is like Joe. They now live an isolated social life and participate in none of the normal family functions that are so important in bringing people together. Their children miss so much.

My advice to "S.O." would be to rethink the engagement and consider meeting someone who is more socially compatible and less controlling. Marriage is a partnership built on compromise. Joe is uncooperative.

My second husband was like this man. I divorced him. Family meant too much to me. -- OLDER AND WISER IN ARIZONA

DEAR OLDER: Thank you for your comments. I heard from many readers who were eager to share what they have learned from living with someone who is uncomfortable in social situations. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Socially Obligated" and her fiance need counseling to find answers to why he is reluctant to attend her family functions. Is he introverted? Does he suffer from Asperger's syndrome and is unable to feel comfortable in crowds? Could he be depressed? Could there have been an issue that has turned him off to her family?

After seven years together, they need to dig deeper or it will continue to be a problem. -- LOUISE IN DAYTON, OHIO

DEAR ABBY: I, too, am married to a man who refuses to do anything with me if anyone else is involved, whether it be church, family or work. He is comfortable with me, and that's it!

We will do things from time to time with family, but he despises it. I feel it's unfair, because I go out of my way to include his relatives in my life. But I knew this about him before we were married.

I have quit making excuses for him and now just explain that he is extremely uncomfortable around people. He has social anxiety and will not likely change. I love him in spite of it, and I make adjustments.

One way I cope is by latching onto someone else in the group so I don't feel left out among the couples present. I engage with nieces and nephews and my widowed mother.

I advise "S.O." to love the man for who he is. Don't try to force him or put him down. -- MAKING IT WORK IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR ABBY: There could be other explanations for the man's social avoidance. My wife is more social than I. I used to go with her to events that she wanted me to attend. But I noticed that afterward, I would get chewed out -- I talked too much or too little, spoke too loudly or couldn't be heard, mixed too much or not enough. In other words, my wife was so socially insecure that no matter how I acted, she took issue.

I finally realized that the problem was hers and not mine. I haven't gone anywhere socially with my wife since 1995 and it has worked out just fine. -- STEPHEN IN KENTUCKY

DEAR ABBY: I come from a large, boisterous, affectionate Italian-Catholic family. My husband grew up an only child in a conservative home. My family gatherings so overwhelmed him that he could only attend one or two per year. I attended the rest alone.

We had many heated arguments about his dislike of my family -- until my mother became ill and he watched how we all came together for her care. That's when he came to know and appreciate my family on a different level. Perhaps over time "S.O.'s" fiance will, too. -- MONICA IN SAN CLEMENTE, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: "Socially Obligated" is worried that because her fiance doesn't show up for her family events, her family may not make the effort for her wedding? She should be worried that he might be the one who doesn't show up! -- JUDY IN OREGON

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)