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by Abigail Van Buren

Son's 'No Secrets' Policy Irks His Confiding Mother

DEAR ABBY: My son "Clay" has been married seven years. There are times I like to discuss things of a personal nature with him having to do with our family, and I have asked him not to mention our talks with his wife. These discussions have nothing to do with her.

The problem is whatever he tells her, she repeats to her whole family. I do not want our personal problems and other matters to be known by everyone.

My other son has no trouble keeping our talks just between us, but Clay says he and his wife have "no secrets" from each other. Abby, is it OK to ask a married son or daughter not to divulge things to a spouse that have nothing to do with her or him? -- CONFIDENTIALLY IN ST. LOUIS

DEAR CONFIDENTIALLY: It's OK to ask; it's also OK to say no. When Clay married his wife, she became part of your family. Now that you know your son keeps no secrets from his wife, and that she leaks like a sieve, the better part of wisdom would be to stop confiding in him. Don't you think?

DEAR ABBY: As a therapist and regular reader, I was surprised and dismayed by your advice to "Hubby in Purr-gatory" (June 30). Apparently, "Hubby" has grown annoyed with his wife's preoccupation with her two cats.

Whatever blocks to closeness have been created for this couple are not likely to be removed by his demanding affection and threatening infidelity -- even in jest. (Re: your comment, "He may adopt a 'kitten' of his own.") People turn to excessive engagement with animals because animals provide warmth in easy, reliable ways. Spouses would often do well to watch what animals give and offer the same things -- especially uncritical pleasure in each other's company.

At the least, you could have suggested "Hubby" open a dialogue with his wife about why she chooses the cats' company and what he can do to be equally appealing. -- JULIE IN RICHMOND, VA., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

DEAR JULIE: I'm sorry you were dismayed. If you read "Hubby's" letter again you will see that he tried "opening a dialogue" with his wife and got nowhere. She has infantilized the cats, which she calls her "babies," to assuage her anxiety after her sons moved out.

While some readers assumed I was "advising" the husband to "adopt a 'kitten' of his own," what I was trying to convey was that when a spouse (of either sex, by the way) feels ignored, unappreciated, unloved or unimportant, it is not uncommon for him or her to seek validation elsewhere. In other words, I called it as I saw it.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old girl. I recently had open heart surgery and my doctor did a really bad job at the "stitching up." My scar is oversized and crooked.

People look at me all the time and ask me about it. I hate wearing certain shirts because of it. Why can't people realize this scar saved my life and stop staring at it? Please, I need some advice. -- SCARRED IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SCARRED: People look at your scar because it is different. They do not mean to stare or make you uncomfortable. A way to take control of the situation would be, when you see someone looking at your chest, to say, "I had open heart surgery. This scar saved my life." If you are asked about it, answer any questions honestly. That will take the mystery out of it -- and word will get around.

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.)