Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Dear Abby, Have You Ever Done This Before?

Dear Abby:

When I date a man, I wine and dine him with gifts and candlelight dinners, but they never seem to be appreciated. Not only that, none of them ever do anything for me. I am always being stood up, heartbroken, used or taken advantage of.

What am I doing wrong? What do men want or look for in a woman? Also, should I be dating men who are separated?

Lonely and Confused, Columbia, Md.


You're giving too much, too soon. Most men want a challenge and enjoy the thrill of pursuit. If you take that away from them, they take you for granted. Men who are separated are still married. Moreover, they are just coming out of a bad experience. Unless your idea of a pleasant evening is hand-holding and commiserating, a good rule of thumb is to look for someone who hasn't recently been burned.

Yeah, exactly. Because separated men are only looking for hand holding. Does Abby even read her own archives? Here we have the clingy breed of woman who specifically asks about separated men for reasons of her own pathology. And Abby just misses it. In better terms than Abbs offers, the separated- also known as married- are not going to be as emotionally available. They probably will not make the showy acts of courtship. They are, afterall, still involved- to some great or small extent- with someone else. So she's sort of right on that point. But is this really what Lonely needs advice about?

Lonely seems to be of the hungry enough to jump on any guy who shows some interest school of thought. Which is what makes separated men "appealing"- they are either in shock or hunters themselves (men and women both find themselves separated in spite of and because of their own actions). Either way, an easy target. What say we recommend a dose of self-worth to Lonely. Make yourself independently interesting and watch them come back. It's not about Abby's "thrill of pursuit." Men do not want "a challenge" and neither do women. We want to be challenged. Be interesting and they will be interested. Make you about you, not them, and see how things change.


Dear Abby:

I need some love advice. I'm scared of making a commitment to the man of my dreams. He's my sister's ex-husband.

I always knew I liked him, but now I know I love him. He and my sister were married for only a year and a half, and they have been divorced for three years. I have three small children and am currently in the middle of a divorce myself.

Can I break that unwritten rule about not dating the exes of your sisters or girlfriends and still feel like a good human being? -- CONFUSED IN CONNECTICUT


Much depends on the degree of bitterness in the failure of your sister's marriage. Are they emotionally as well as legally divorced? Were there children involved? How mature is everyone involved? If the answers to my questions are: no, yes, and not very -- accept that a union with this man will cause World War III in your family and be prepared to pay the price, which will be a bitter rift.

Is this really an unwritten rule? Or is it more etched in stone. At a recent dinner with friends, the subject of a friend's ex and how to put him in the same emotionally pained position came up. The "solution" (suggested by the older sister of the aggreived no less): Sleep with his brother. And every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday, and family gathering is tainted if not ruined.

Certainly, these types of relationships can work out. But why play with fire. There are 6 billion people on Earth and you have to go after your sister's ex-husband? And you're coming out of a divorce yourself. With children involved. And your idea is to go after your sister's ex-husband. Get your decision making skills checked before you do ANYTHING else. A life in turmoil, kids who will (likely) need your family more than before (and you almost certainly will), and your plan is to go after one of the few people who seem likely to rip you and your family apart?

Do you thrive on chaos? Hey Abby, how about you do your job and bring a little "take care of your kids and get your life restarted before you even think about this guy again" talk to the table?


Dear Abby:

My mother passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer. She lived in our home; we were her caregivers, and her absence is mourned every day.

My problem is my mother's family. I have called and written to them, but have had little response.

My 90-year-old grandmother came to our home a few weeks after Mom died and went from room to room taking inventory of things she wanted her "boys" to have. She then called and gave me an additional list of "family" items she wanted for sentimental reasons. I know there is more to it than sentiment. My mother had these things for 40 years, but for some reason, it's not okay for me -- her adopted daughter -- to keep them.

I realize they were only "things," but my hurt is palpable because they represented a family connection I thought I had all these years.

I knew I was adopted, but it took my grandmother to make me realize that in her eyes adoption means "unworthy." Any advice would be appreciated.

Feeling Unworthy in Texas


Your grandmother's behavior is appalling. Has she always been this way, or could she be suffering from dementia? If she has all her marbles, then please note that the items your mother brought to your home were hers regardless of who covets them -- and cannot be removed without your permission. Did your mother have a will? Did she have an attorney? Please discuss this with a lawyer -- and if necessary, a grief counselor to help you during this difficult period. You have my sympathy for the loss of both your mother and your illusions about the people you considered to be your family.

Nice. Real nice. Abby, no spring chicken herself, jumps immediately to the idea that granny may have dementia. Similar questions could be asked of others, but they won't be. Not yet anyway.

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