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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced for three years. I have been dating a woman, "Stephanie," whom I love and believe can be my next wife. We talk about marriage and have been very good for each other.

We each are blessed with three grown children, and we love our families immensely. The difference is, Stephanie socializes only with her family and has few friends who aren't related to her. I, on the other hand, have a wealth of friends and like to do a lot with them -- dinner parties, sporting events, concerts, traveling, etc. My friends are great people, and she agrees with me on that, but when we make plans with them, she says she feels like an outsider and prefers to be with her family.

Currently, Stephanie sees her daughter at least three times a week and her oldest son twice a week. In addition, her ex-husband and his wife host family events almost every other weekend -- birthdays, holidays, game nights, etc., and she never wants to miss them. They are so close that there are no secrets and lots of "inside jokes." I feel very much like an outsider at times.

I love her family, and they have welcomed me with open arms, but I can't seem to get used to this much "togetherness." Once my kids were grown and out of the house, I wanted to enjoy my life while they pursued their own fun. I'm at the point that I'm tired of her family, especially since her ex always seems to be the organizer of these get-togethers.

I don't want to hurt her or her family's feelings, but I would prefer more private time traveling or visiting with my friends and family, and we are not finding a good balance. They all attend the same church every week and even sit together as if they were still one big, happy family, even though it has been 20 years since their divorce. She tells me that I am No. 1 in her life, but her actions say otherwise. What do I do? -- DIFFERENT IN MISSOURI

DEAR DIFFERENT: I suggest you stop listening to what Stephanie says and concentrate more on what you see she's doing, then act accordingly.

Read more in: Love & Dating

DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend who, every time I invite her and her husband over for dinner, always assumes their 20-year-old daughter can have a plate as well. They make her a plate before they serve themselves and take it to her.

I guess I don't mind, but I wish they would ask before assuming it's OK. Most of the time I make enough food so I have leftovers for my boyfriend to take for lunch the following day. Is she being rude? Or am I just being a not-so-nice friend? -- NO LEFTOVERS

DEAR NO LEFTOVERS: What your friend is doing is rude. But don't blame her for it. This is your fault for not speaking up when this first started happening and explaining that the leftovers are intended for your boyfriend's lunch the next day, which is why you would appreciate her not taking them. A way to avoid this in the future might be to plate the food yourself rather than let your guests do it, and immediately refrigerate whatever is left. Out of sight, out of reach!

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Etiquette & Ethics

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