DEAR ABBY: Why must we walk on eggshells around our adult children? I have many friends with the same problem. Only one of them is able to open up and tell her kids how she feels.
You advised if a daughter goes out with a bum, learn to find something good about the bum. I'd like to tell that daughter the guy is a bum, or her kids and her house are a mess. But even if I criticize politely, and say very carefully how I feel, our adult children withhold their children or themselves and there goes the relationship. Is there hope to change this situation? My friends and I would like to know! -- WALKING ON EGGSHELLS
DEAR WALKING: As a parent, your instinct will always be to "parent" your children. But after children become adults, the kind of advice you would like to deliver becomes less welcomed -- and the "kids" no longer have to listen or abide by it. I'm not sure what it is they are doing (or not doing) that you would like to criticize, but if it has something to do with their children, remember that parenting styles have changed with time.
It's regrettable, but many families are no longer close in the way that families were a few decades ago, when the generations needed each other for baby-sitting and other kinds of help. But once the dynamics have been set, the pattern is difficult to change unless all parties are open to it -- and even then it can take professional help.
DEAR ABBY: Our son, an honors student, was accepted to a prestigious Ivy League school. However, the amount of tuition was so exorbitant that the burden on our family would have been financially devastating. Since the day I made the call to turn down the university's offer, my wife, "Jenna," has refused to touch me or respond to me in any way. She talks to me rarely and has refused to make love for more than three years.
I have gone to marriage counseling (she refused to go), sought help from my clergy and repeatedly tried to get my wife to have a relationship. Although I am not a perfect husband, I have tried to make our marriage work. Jenna continues to treat me with contempt and refuses to refer to me in front of our three children by any name except "he."
Do you see any hope for me continuing this relationship? I hate to end this marriage before all of our kids leave home. -- SAD IN SYRACUSE
DEAR SAD: Did you discuss the phone call with your wife before you made it, so you could explore other possible options together or did you call without consulting her? If it's the latter, she had a right to be angry. However, to punish one's spouse for three years seems grossly excessive. And because she won't accept counseling you will have to decide whether to accept the status quo, because you appear to have been physically and emotionally abandoned.
DEAR ABBY: A friend from work has a boyfriend who constantly cheats and lies to her. She cries to me about it, and I can't help but get annoyed because it happens over and over. A week later, she loves him again and forgives him.
She wants me and my boyfriend to go out on a double date. How can I avoid it without hurting her feelings? Should I tell her the truth, that I want nothing to do with that dirtbag, or say I'm "too busy"? -- SHOULDER TO CRY ON IN FLORIDA
DEAR SHOULDER: Don't call her boyfriend a dirtbag or any other names, although they are probably accurate. Just thank her for thinking of it but tell her that as much as you like her, knowing how he has treated her, you wouldn't be able to look him in the eye.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)