DEAR ABBY: My fiancee and I plan to be married next year. I met her after she left her husband because he had cheated on her twice. She refuses to tell her daughters that she left their dad because he cheated, so I am doomed to be the "bad guy" for eternity. They think I'm "the man who stole Mama from Daddy." Her youngest (age 25) thinks I'm the devil incarnate and is unbelievably rude to me, no matter who is around. I'm thinking marriage will be hell because she and her mother interact every day. What am I to do? -- BLAMELESS IN THE SOUTH
DEAR BLAMELESS: This is not a question of what "you" should do. It's a question of what you and your fiancee should do together. While it may not be necessary for her to tell her adult daughters that their father was a cheater, and that's the reason she left him, she should definitely call a family meeting and clear the air by telling them that you were not the reason the marriage ended. She should also insist that you be treated with respect -- if not affection.
However, if she's unwilling to do that, then you should seriously consider calling off the wedding because a marriage under those conditions would be miserable for you. Her daughters would guarantee it.
DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Another Husband in Oregon" (Sept. 3) who wondered about the "man cave" behavior he had observed in his neighbors. I can tell you from personal experience that the appeal of spending long hours working on mechanical things in a garage or workshop in total solitude is strong for many men. Regarding the guy who rebuilt an antique truck from the ground up, if you go to any car show featuring restored cars, you can't help but admire the time, energy, skill and commitment some men put into a restoration. These can be works of art.
Balance is very important to a successful marriage. Before a wife complains about too much time spent in the "cave" (and not all do complain), she should consider the upside. He is safe, he's not blowing family money in a bar or at a blackjack table, and he's not chasing other women. And he just may be creating something unique that will give him great pride and satisfaction. -- PAUL IN WISCONSIN
DEAR PAUL: When I put the question about "garaged husbands" out to my readers, they were forthcoming with their views. The responses -- predominantly from men, but also some of their wives -- were overwhelmingly positive.
While the theory of spending too much time in the garage as a result of being "frozen out of the bedroom" was raised, most readers affirmed the value of having separate time from a spouse -- as long as it is only "spare" time. Wives wrote that it enables them to catch up on reading, shopping, a project with the kids or grandkids, or watch a favorite TV show or movie.
Both spouses extolled the results produced in the "cave" -- restored vintage cars, woodworking items and various repairs. Visiting is permitted, and there's learning to be had for the kids. And, as a number of readers reminded us, "At least you know where he is."