DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 18 years to a man I have a good relationship with. My problem is he has always been extremely rude to my parents. They aren't critical or judgmental of him, and they try hard to be friendly and accommodating, perhaps thinking it might lessen the rudeness he continually shows them.
Example: If my mom asks him how his parents are doing, without looking up from his cellphone he'll grunt and say, "They're fine" -- nothing more. When we go out to dinner, he usually doesn't join in the conversation. Instead, he just sits there with a dismissive, bored look on his face.
I have told him I don't want him to come with me when I visit them. It only takes a few times before he asks if he can come again and promises to try to behave. But after a few visits, he reverts back to his old, rude ways. It has reached a point that it's affecting our marriage. Can you offer any suggestions for how this issue can be resolved? -- TIRED OF IT IN TORONTO
DEAR TIRED OF IT: It would be helpful to know why your husband behaves this way. Does he dislike your folks? Does he have so little in common with them he doesn't know how to participate in a conversation with them? Is he this way with any other people?
Perhaps it would be better for all concerned if he saw them with you less often, say, 30 percent to 50 percent of the time. And before he does, make sure he is up to the task of being social because, as it stands, I agree his behavior is rude.
He's not a teenager with his nose buried in a cellphone; he's an adult who should know better. If he finds your parents' company less than stimulating, he should be a better actor.
DEAR ABBY: Last year my darling mother lost her battle with cancer. Aside from grief and loss, a bigger issue looms over my life. It concerns my stepdad.
Before Mom was diagnosed, my stepfather was a selfish, self-centered man. At times he was mean to her to the point that I wanted her to leave him. In fairness, once Mom was diagnosed, he stepped up to the plate and took excellent care of her until her death.
I have other issues with my stepfather. He was inappropriate with me, sharing things he should have kept to himself. It caused my mother great heartache and made me lose respect for him. I am still uncomfortable around him. Mom knew how I felt and understood.
Now that she is gone, do I have any obligation to him? He has a strained relationship with his only child. My sibling thinks I'm too hard on him, but doesn't understand the major problems our stepdad caused. I don't want to continue pretending I like him. Please help, Abby. -- SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE
DEAR SEARCHING: You are entitled to your feelings and, no, you do not have any obligation to your stepfather. If your sibling wants to see him, that's his/her choice. Explain to your sibling your reasons for feeling the way you do -- and if you encounter your stepfather during family gatherings, be polite and don't linger. That isn't pretending to like the man; it is good manners.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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