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DEAR ABBY: My parents have been happily married for more than 30 years. While flipping through an old family album recently, I discovered photos from a wedding many years ago that I had never seen before. Turns out, they were from my father's first wedding. That's when I realized his marriage to my mother was his second wedding.

I'd like to learn more about his first marriage, but it's clearly something from my father's past that I can't talk to him about. I also wouldn't want to sour relations with his side of the family by bringing it up with them. What should I do? -- WANTS TO KNOW MORE

DEAR WANTS TO KNOW MORE: The shortest distance between two points is a direct line. How do you know this is "clearly" something your father won't discuss? If his first marriage was a deep dark secret, those photos would not have been kept in an album. The solution to your question would be to tell him you saw them and ask him to tell you about it. He may have learned lessons from his first marriage from which you could benefit.

Man Sounds Off About Being Quiet

DEAR ABBY: I am a man in my late 20s dating my on-and-off-again boyfriend of five years. I dread the parties and family gatherings he brings me to. I'm polite and good at holding conversations, but generally quiet around his friends and family members I don't know well.

He jokingly puts me down at each event and says things like, "Why do I even bring you?" or, "Thanks for not doing or saying anything" (which isn't true). When I tell him afterward that I find his jibes offensive and suggest maybe he should date someone else who doesn't irritate him at social events, he either plays it off as "joking" or says, "Well, it's true."

Any advice on how to handle this situation? -- QUIET ONE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR QUIET ONE: Humiliating someone isn't funny; it is cruel. If the shoe were on the other foot, I'm sure your boyfriend wouldn't like to be on the receiving end. If you have told him you don't like his jibes and want them stopped and yet he persists, handle it by re-evaluating your relationship and looking for someone who is more sensitive to hang out with. If the ridicule happens often, it may be a clue that you are really not compatible.

Grieving Process Has No Timeline

DEAR ABBY: I lost my mother a month ago. I just could not accept it because she was always there for me through the good and bad times. I would like to know how long my grieving period will last for me. -- SON MOURNING IN MICHIGAN

DEAR SON MOURNING: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your mother. To answer your question, there is no set timetable for grief, and there are different stages of it. Right now, your grief is intense because it is fresh. With time, that intensity should fade to a level where it is tolerable. A grief support group could provide you the chance to talk about your feelings. Although you will always miss your mother, the sadness of her loss should not rule your life.

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