DEAR ABBY: I'm a 22-year-old college student. My boyfriend of seven years and I are engaged. Because we were high school sweethearts, we have watched each other grow into the people we are today.
For the most part, I'm very proud of the person he has become. When I quit my full-time job to continue my education, he stepped up to support me. I never asked for it, nor did I expect it from him.
"Liam" is very frugal. ("Cheap" might be a better word.) I never understood it because he makes enough money to support us both and put plenty into savings. However, I recently learned that every payday, his mother calls, and he goes to her house and gives her money. It wouldn't bother me if she was ill, unemployed, etc., but she's well-off and earns a good living.
Abby, what concerns me is that while Liam is 24 years old, he has a shared bank account with his mother. She seems to call him only on payday, every payday, without fail. She also seems to have more control of his spending than he does. He won't pay his bills without first consulting her. She was very clear when she told him he had spent too much on my engagement ring.
I don't want to come between Liam and his mother, but I'm not sure I can marry them both. It's not that I want his money, but after we're married, I feel the husband and wife should share bank accounts and bills, not my husband and his mother.
Do I have a right to be concerned with this matter? -- FRUGAL FIANCEE IN FLORIDA
DEAR FIANCEE: You and Liam need to have a frank talk about money. There may be a reasonable explanation why he gives his mother money every payday. (She may invest it for him.) But you'll never know if you don't ask. While "Mama" may not have been overjoyed at the amount her son spent on your engagement ring, it appears she did approve his chipping in for your education, so she's not what I'd call a miser.
That said, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you and Liam to be on the same page when it comes to finances and how decisions will be made after your marriage. Premarital counseling covers subjects like this because marriages have been known to fail when couples disagree about money.
DEAR ABBY: I am a contractor. My job requires me to stay at a job site from three days to six months. I am happily married with one child who is grown, gone and has a child of his own.
My son and I are estranged, and have had no contact in 10 years. When making small talk on the job site, inevitably the question comes up, "Do you have children?" I don't want to get into that part of my life, but I also don't want to alienate people who are trying to be friendly.
If I say "no," I am lying. If I say "yes," it opens up a can of worms, like "Where does he live?" "Do you see him often?" etc. If I reveal that I am a grandparent, it can get especially uncomfortable. Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation gracefully? -- NO EASY ANSWERS IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR NO EASY ANSWERS: Yes, I do. Be honest and say, "I have a son and we are estranged." You don't have to give more details than that, and you may be surprised when the person you're talking to says, "Me, too!" The situation is not as uncommon as you may think -- as I discovered not long ago when I attended a luncheon and realized the common denominator among the guests was they were all estranged from their children or stepchildren.
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