DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend and I have been together for three years and have a 1-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, our fights have become more frequent now. She suggested counseling, which I agree with. However, she insists I'm the one who is causing the problem and I should go first.
Sometimes we fight about finances, since I work to support our family while she looks after our daughter. We are a mixed-race couple and sometimes race comes into play. She accuses me of making demands on her because of my ethnicity (e.g., "You want an obedient partner because you're Chinese"). To me, that's racist, and I have told her so. Of course she disagrees.
Needless to say, that's my version of the story. Where can I find a good therapist? -- ROBERT IN NEW YORK
DEAR ROBERT: I agree you and your girlfriend could use some counseling, but you should get it together. That your girlfriend drags race into your financial disagreements is unfair to you.
Ask your physician if he or she knows a good counselor, check with your health insurance company for a referral, or visit the New York State Psychological Association website (nyspa.org) to find someone who is licensed to practice in your state.
DEAR ABBY: I am writing about all the letters you've printed that assume every relationship must end in marriage -- or at least living together -- in order to work. It isn't so. Robert Parker, noted author of the Spenser novels, and his wife lived on separate floors of a duplex for decades. I have been with my significant other for 20 years, and the only thing that keeps us together is living apart.
In our case, we aren't married and we live in the same condo complex, a minute's walk apart. After we had spent about 10 years as a couple, the neighbors stopped asking me when we would be married.
I'm a 59-year-old woman; he's a 64-year-old man. He needs absolute minimalism in his home, as opposed to my need to have things out so I don't forget them. In short, we have different living styles.
I have met many other women who envy my living situation. They love their husbands, but find living together to be too stressful. Comments, Abby? -- CINDY IN NAPLES, FLA.
DEAR CINDY: My only comment would be that I'm glad you and your significant other have found a lifestyle that works for you and fosters your relationship. I hope you have many happy years together and apart.
DEAR ABBY: If I take my wife out for a nice dinner, is it rude for her to excuse herself a couple of times during dinner to go outside and smoke a cigarette? -- DINNER FOR TWO
DEAR D.F.T.: This isn't a question of rudeness. Your wife is severely addicted to nicotine. If she could make it through the meal without a fix, I'm sure she would. How sad!
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.)