Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Women Pointedly Exclude Friend From Monthly Tea

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are friendly with two other couples whose children are friends with ours. We live in a fairly small community, and the couples met and began socializing because my husband and I introduced them. It started out with board game nights, progressed to potlucks and holiday events, then eventually a three-family summer vacation. Everyone seemed to get along fine.

Two years into the friendship, it came to my attention that the two other females were getting together "for tea" about once a month, and had been doing so for some time. I won't pretend that it didn't sting. I was surprised that they were socializing without including me, and even more so to realize that they had been doing so "on the sly." It would have been easy to include me, but they repeatedly chose not to. Not only that, they actively hid their tea dates from me.

I realize we are all adults and free to do as we wish, but nothing about their behavior screams "adult" to me. At first, my husband felt my feelings were unwarranted, but the secrecy surrounding their friendship has cast a pall on the couples portion of the friendship. I'm not sure of my place anymore. What do you think, Abby? Am I off base to have hurt feelings on this? -- HURT AND LEFT OUT

DEAR HURT: That you have hurt feelings is understandable. But those women did what they did on the sly because they knew you would react exactly as you have. We talk about different things with different people. You don't own them. They are free to meet if they choose, and it's only once a month.

Because the idea that they visit with each other privately has made you unsure about your status in the friendship, tell them you know and ask why. It couldn't be more damaging to your relationship with them than the status quo, and it might clear the air.

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors

Dad's Bombastic Style Rubs Son-in-Law the Wrong Way

DEAR ABBY: My father, although a well-meaning and caring man, often speaks before he thinks. The way he phrases things can come across as harsh, uncaring or rude. My husband is a sensitive person who was badly bullied in his youth, so he doesn't feel comfortable around my father and takes most things he says as insults. I have tried talking to both of them without success and even involved my stepmom.

My father and stepmom are coming for a visit, and I can't get it through my father's or my husband's heads that the only way for them to get on the same page is to talk. My husband can't understand why I see common ground between him and my father, and my father is too oblivious to realize the depth of the problem. The two most important men in my life cannot communicate. What can I do? -- IN THE MIDDLE IN FLORIDA

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: Continue to encourage them to talk to each other, but if you're not successful, accept that your father is an insensitive loose cannon who won't change. Limit your parents' visits and keep them short. When you know they're scheduled to be in town, help your husband plan to be out of the house as often as possible. And, if that doesn't work, arrange to visit your parents alone rather than have them visit you. As much as you might want the two men in your life to get along, it just may not be possible.

P.S. If the bullying your husband experienced as a child has affected his other relationships as an adult, he should consider getting therapy. It might change his life for the better.

Read more in: Family & Parenting

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.