DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year and a half. In the beginning, he kept his family and me apart. I thought it was because they were extremely close, but turns out he was doing me a favor given their inappropriate and cruel treatment of one another.
At my boyfriend's birthday lunch, his father called his mother the worst possible word anyone could call a female. My boyfriend and his sisters didn't seem fazed by his verbal abuse. I worry his parents' toxic and unloving relationship is something he will eventually settle for in life. Is it possible for children not to emulate their parents' example, or should I move on? -- NOT IN THE FAMILY
DEAR NOT IN THE FAMILY: Children do not automatically follow the abysmal patterns set by their parents. However, if you and this man are serious and you are contemplating a future with him, I strongly recommend that before formalizing your relationship, you seek premarital counseling together to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
DEAR ABBY: I have a question about nail-biting/finger chewing. We recently hired a new employee who is in daily contact with the public. He is a finger chewer, and his nails are bitten well below the finger tip. I am struggling with this because I had a childhood friend who chewed her fingers to the point of bleeding, and I have a strong negative reaction when I see people do it.
When, if ever, is it appropriate to speak to someone about this bad habit? I have recently learned that it is actually a medical diagnosis and can lead to gastric disorders. We all know there are many germs on our hands, and every time you put them in your mouth, you're transferring them to your intestinal tract. -- WORRIED IN THE EAST
DEAR WORRIED: I have heard of very few nail-biters who are proud of the habit. There's a saying -- not original -- that if you want someone to avoid you, just tell him something "for his own good." If you want a pleasant working relationship with this person, mind your own business and do not attempt to "help" him by offering unasked-for advice.
DEAR ABBY: I'm usually well-spoken and articulate with family and close friends. But when talking to strangers or potential employers, I tend to choke up and make no sense at all. I become anxious and forget what I want to say. Do you have any ideas why this happens? -- TALKER IN THE WEST
DEAR TALKER: It may happen because you suffer from a form of social anxiety -- one shared by many people. Fortunately, there's help for it if you consult a mental health professional. Because it is interfering with employment opportunities, you shouldn't wait.