Dear Abby: My wife is obsessed with crossword puzzles

07:00 18.09.2023 - New York Post

DEAR ABBY: I have been happily married for 30 years. Since my wife recently retired, her crossword hobby has become an obsession. She does them all day, whether we are watching TV, talking or eating meals. When we go out, she carries crossword puzzles to do or does them on her phone. When our kids visit, she ignores them and does crossword puzzles. During the last holiday celebrations, she sat staring at her phone crosswords instead of participating in family interactions. If she were my child, I would take away her phone. But she's an adult and my wife, so I can't do that. Before she retired, she did crossword puzzles two or three times a week, and we had fun doing them together. Now I am completely ignored. I have talked to her about my feelings. It didn't help, so I'm hoping to get some good advice from you. - PUZZLED HUSBAND

DEAR PUZZLED: Talk to your wife again. Tell her you no longer are willing to be ignored while she indulges in her obsession with crossword puzzles. What she's doing is unfair to you and the family. Suggest the two of you consult a licensed marriage and family therapist. If she refuses, schedule some sessions for yourself. From what you have described, your marriage is in trouble, and your wife is using her crossword puzzles to escape from the real world.

DEAR ABBY: I have lived in my apartment for nine years. When I moved in, I met a woman who moved in about the same time. We became friendly, and I enjoyed talking to her at the pool and mailbox - until I got to know her better. She has alienated all the other neighbors and kids in the complex with her attitude. She butts into conversations and asks personal questions, despite claiming to "mind her business and keep to herself." Abby, I was raised to be forgiving and understanding. I have reached out to her and taken her to the store and medical appointments, but then she freaks out, swears and demands that I speed up, take her to thrift stores, etc. She asks why I don't take the freeway instead of surface streets with traffic lights.

I finally quit taking her places, but now she has started walking into my apartment, sitting down and asking me questions. She also gets mad when she sees I went to the store without her. How do I politely, but firmly, tell her to leave me alone and I no longer want to have anything to do with her? She makes me anxious and drives me crazy. I understand she's lonely, but she's a miserable person to be around. - DOORMAT GUY OUT WEST

DEAR DOORMAT GUY: If you know someone will walk into your apartment uninvited, for heaven's sake, lock your door! If this neighbor rings the bell or knocks, tell her you are busy and cannot entertain her and shut the door. If she corners you and rants about you having gone to the store without her, tell her in plain English why you stopped doing it. That said, I think it would be more hurtful than helpful to point out the other reasons she has made herself a social pariah.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 7:00 AM /

themes:  Los Angeles  California

Dear Abby: My wife's relationship with her son is creeping me out

DEAR ABBY: My stepson, who is 24, has Asperger's syndrome. He is high functioning, very intelligent and has a great work ethic. He still lives at home, and I have noticed that he must touch his mother every day. There are times he stands behind her and strokes her hair and rubs her neck and shoulders. I think it's odd and, to be honest, it kind of bothers me. It's not a jealousy thing, it just strikes me as creepy.

I don't think a 24-year-old should be caressing his mother that way. She doesn't think it's wrong, and when I mentioned it to her, she became offended. I know I may be wrong, and I try to understand that it may be part of his Asperger's. Am I off base? Help me understand. - CREEPED OUT IN INDIANA

DEAR CREEPED OUT: What you are describing isn't scandalous. It could simply be gestures of affection. Because your wife isn't bothered by it, I suggest you calm down and stop reading more into it than there may be.

DEAR ABBY: My sister likes a childhood friend of ours and is hiding the fact that they are together, even though everyone in the family already knows they are living together. She clearly doesn't want me to know, and always finds a way to not be truthful with me.

This guy and I were friends, but whatever my sister said to him made him cut our friendship off. I'm hurt that she needs to lie to me about their relationship, because it doesn't matter to me. I'm happy she has found someone who makes her happy. She even has our mom covering for her. Should I say something, or just let it be? - HURTFUL AND SAD SISTER

DEAR HURTFUL: Did you and your sister's boyfriend ever have a romantic relationship? If the answer is yes, it may explain your sister's strange behavior and your mother's willingness to cover for her. Because the cat is out of the bag and everyone knows the truth, I see no reason why you shouldn't talk to your sister and clear the air. When you do, wish them well.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a wonderful, generous man for 33 years. Everything is great except for one thing. I have COPD. He's sympathetic, but it goes only so far. An example: Today I was having a terrible coughing spell. I was in the bedroom. He was in the den, one room away. The spell lasted at least 30 minutes. Not once did he come in to check on me, ask if I needed anything, etc. It was as if we weren't in the same house. After about half an hour, he did come in and said: "What do you wanna do this afternoon?" It really irked me. Am I making too much of this? - IRKED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR IRKED: Your husband may be "wonderful," but he also appears to be a tad insensitive. He may have thought that as long as you were coughing, you were still breathing and didn't need his help. Because his failure to grasp the seriousness of your predicament irked you, take the precaution of telling him - before your next coughing fit - how you would like him to respond, and why.


Dear Abby: My fiance won't commit to a date for our wedding

DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I are going back and forth about setting a date for our wedding. We have begun arguing lately about normal relationship issues. He calls them fights, when all I'm trying to do is express my feelings so we get on the same page. Then, instead of talking, he shuts down and clams up. It makes me crazy.

Now he's saying he won't set a date until our relationship is "healthy." He says we fight too much; I think it's a lack of communication. Now I say nothing because I'm afraid he won't want to set a date at all. I don't know what to do. Setting a date is important to me, but I'm starting to wonder if it's even worth it. Please help. - DESTINATION UNKNOWN IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR D.U.: Tell your fiance you think he was absolutely right when he told you he didn't want to set a wedding date until your relationship is "healthy." (I agree, by the way.) Tell him you love him and how important you feel communication is in any relationship. Then suggest the two of you seek premarital counseling.

Premarital counseling allows couples to preempt issues that could cause problems in a marriage, from child rearing to money to sex. If your fiance's method of handling disagreements is to shut down, there may be a way to correct it during some of those sessions.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for more than 12 years. My road to sobriety has been long and dark, but I am proud of turning my life around and staying sober. My problem is how my mother treats me about it. She keeps reminding me of all the mistakes I made and the people I hurt when I was still drinking.

I also struggle with manic depression and have a hard enough time forgiving myself for my past actions, let alone having someone continually bring up every single one. I try every day to be a better person, and I'm an open book when it comes to my life and flaws.

My mother constantly accuses me of falling into my old habits and says I'm lying about it, even though she's been given truth and proof that I'm not. My long-term boyfriend and other family members can vouch for me. It's to the point where she's so in my head and cruel with the things she says that I'm spiraling back into depression, which is taking a toll on my confidence and mental health.

I have tried cutting her out of my life, but I live with a family member she's close to, so she shows up at our house and continues her belittling. I'm starting to lose patience and also my sanity. What do you do? Please help! - STILL STAYING SOBER

DEAR SOBER: Understand that your toxic mother may have some kind of fixation on torturing you. When she shows up, absent yourself immediately. From your experience, you know she's the kind of person who drives others to drink, so involve yourself with her as little as humanly possible. Your sobriety and sanity depend on it.


Dear Abby: My son ignores me for his abusive girlfriends

DEAR ABBY: My son's former wife was difficult - manipulative, spoiled and possessive. I tried to get along with her, but no matter what I did, she gave me no respect and turned my son against me. They have been divorced for six years. He began dating a few years ago, and each woman is a carbon copy of the ex-wife. He falls right back into the same pattern of ignoring me and letting his girlfriends possess him. I'm deeply hurt. I don't understand why he feels he has to choose between them and me. He is my son, and I shouldn't have to compete for his love.

I'm getting older now and have asked him for some help, but he refuses. I would just like a regular phone call and to see him. I am no longer invited to his house for holidays, nor does he randomly call just to talk. He has a new girlfriend, and it's back to the same old pattern. Please advise me. - LOW PRIORITY IN OHIO

DEAR LOW PRIORITY: Please accept my sympathy. I know you are hurting. It seems your son is more attentive to you when he's between girlfriends but has tunnel vision when a new woman enters his life. For your sake, it's important you begin concentrating on building a reliable support system that is independent of him. To accomplish this, you must be willing to lend support to others, which will give you less time to be lonely. Volunteering may be the way to begin, whether for a charity, a political organization or your place of worship. There is so much need out there; you will feel better once you start filling it.

DEAR ABBY: After 37 years of marriage, all of a sudden, my husband has a problem with how I speak. He says it's my "tone." I can no longer discuss anything with him because it always ends up in an argument, not about the actual words I say, but how I say them. He can't seem to help himself. He constantly criticizes something about whatever I say. He has taken my voice away, and I feel invisible. He talks to me, but I'm supposed to only listen. If I ask a question or make a comment, he gets mad because I'm "interrupting him." I can no longer add to or participate in the conversation. After all these years, I can't communicate. It's like he hates the sound of my voice. Please tell me what to do. - SILENCED IN TEXAS

DEAR SILENCED: As a matter of fact, I do have a suggestion (or two). The first is that BOTH you and your husband should have your hearing checked. You may be speaking more loudly than you used to, or your husband may have developed some kind of sensitivity to sounds in your vocal range. Second, if your hearing and his are within normal ranges, and everything checks out during your next physical exam, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed marriage and family therapist. The behavior you are describing seems to be controlling and disrespectful, and a therapist may be able to guide you before you lose your mind.


Dear Abby: My mother is still married to the man who molested me

DEAR ABBY: My mother is still married to the man who molested my siblings and me. How do I forgive her and move past it? We had a close mother-daughter relationship until two years ago, when I asked her why she was still married to the man her children told her repeatedly had molested them. She didn't answer. She chose him, walked out and we haven't spoken since. It's hard for me to deal with. ..... Not having your mother because she passes away is hard, but the feeling of not having her while she's alive is a whole different kind of pain. - FULL OF PAIN IN TEXAS

DEAR FULL OF PAIN: In my opinion, not all sins are forgivable. Chief among them is turning a blind eye to children who are being sexually abused. Your mother made her choice years ago, and I can only imagine how hurtful it has been for you. An organization called R.A.I.N.N. (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) may be helpful because it can connect you with experienced therapists. (The website is

The man to whom your mother has given her allegiance is a danger to the community. If he would abuse you and your siblings, he would have no compunction about doing it to other children given the opportunity. You (and your siblings) should notify the police about what happened to you because it could happen over and over again.

DEAR ABBY: My fiance and I went to his co-worker "Tina's" house on a Friday night to socialize and play trivia games. We had been at her place before, for a Christmas party. Tina wore a short skirt, and when she sat down you could see all the way up to her black lace panties. During our heads-up game she sat right across from my fiance. While people were laughing and having fun drinking and playing games, all I could notice were her panties and Tina's loud laughs. She was drinking, and my fiance asked her, "Baby, are you feeling OK?" He said it loudly. Everyone heard it, and I felt myself getting really angry and red in the face. Why was he calling her Baby? We call each other that!

I don't want to return to Tina's house. My fiance says I overreacted. He doesn't tell me about his goings-on at work or about friend hangouts. We usually go out together alone. When I think back on that night, I still feel upset about it. Are my feelings valid? Do you think we need couples therapy before we get married? - UNEASY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR UNEASY: Allow me to save you some money. Rather than tell your fiance you think you need couples counseling because his co-worker drinks too much, say instead you were not impressed by the performance Tina put on that evening, and you prefer the two of you skip game nights at her place and socialize with people with whom you have more in common.


Dear Abby: I was adopted - can I ask my biological mother for money?

DEAR ABBY: Would it be wrong to reach out to my biological mother for financial help? I was adopted when I was just 2 months old. I was lucky to have wonderful parents, but they are in poor health, and it's affecting both of them physically. I'm going into debt helping them out financially. They are on a fixed income that barely covers their expenses. Would it be wrong of me to ask my birth mother for that help? We see each other occasionally. My birth mother sold her house and isn't hurting financially. I don't want to sound entitled. I just need some help, and I'm prepared for a no. - ENTITLED TO ANYTHING?

DEAR ENTITLED: It isn't your birth mother's responsibility to support the couple who adopted you, particularly since the request for money would be ongoing. You stated that you see her only occasionally. (If you do what you are considering, you may be seeing her less often.) If your parents still have relatives, you might have some success if you approach them for the financial help you are seeking. If not, reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging for guidance.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Dan," and I separated for four months. We have now reunited. However, his son Ryan told me he never wants to see me again. I wrote him a letter, expressed my remorse and invited him to visit, but have received no response. Ryan shuns me now. My husband is going to invite him to visit, but I don't know how I will deal with it. I do not want to be his hostess. What should I do? - BACK TOGETHER IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR BACK: IF Dan invites Ryan to visit, and IF Ryan agrees, put on a smile and become the most gracious hostess since Perle Mesta. (If you don't know who she was, look her up.) Your husband may be able to mediate a resumption of harmonious family relations. If his son regarded your leaving as a personal rejection, Dan may be able to disabuse him of that idea and patch things up.

DEAR ABBY: I was recently discharged from the hospital. Family members have told my husband to call if there's anything they can do to help. That makes one more thing for my husband to do - make a phone call. I'd like to suggest a better way to help. Family members, please call and tell my husband what specifically you would like to do to help. Some examples: Bring a meal. Do an errand. Sit with me while my husband goes out to do errands, etc. I think the best thing anyone can do is bring a meal. It's one less thing for the caretaker to have to do. The food doesn't have to be homemade; it can be bought. Patient and caregiver still have to eat. Thank you, Abby, for letting me make this point. - HAPPY TO BE HOME

DEAR HAPPY: Your point is well taken. You are right. It never hurts to volunteer what you could do to help someone recovering from a medical procedure. Some suggestions: Do some marketing or laundry or pick up their child from school and take them to the park to burn off some energy.


Dear Abby: I'm 40 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up

DEAR ABBY: I'll soon be 40, and I still have no idea what I want to be when I "grow up." I don't know what I'm interested in doing or what my skills are. It's not for lack of trying. I've taken aptitude tests, IQ tests and personality tests, and I'm still no closer to any answers. I do not know how to choose a job and just go for it. This may be why I never graduated from college - I kept switching majors.

I live with a family member and owe $25,000 in college loans. I can't afford a car and the financial stress is killing me, not to mention the emotional and mental stress and low self-esteem. I need help. I should have had all this figured out ages ago. Any good, solid advice would be appreciated. - LOST IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR LOST: Go online to see if you qualify to have any part of your student loan debt forgiven. It may be possible if you have been making payments for many years. As to your inability to choose a career, at this point, finding any job for which you are qualified that will pay enough to put food on the table and a roof over your head would be appropriate.

If there's low-cost psychological counseling from your county's department of mental health services or a local college or university, it could be helpful in getting you unblocked and to lift your self-esteem, so it couldn't hurt to reach out for that, too. Inertia is your enemy.

DEAR ABBY: I'm scheduled to go on a vacation with my mother and sister. It seemed like a fun idea during the planning, but as the date approaches, I realize it might not be possible for my sister and me to get along and remain civil during the trip.

We are in our mid-to-late 20s now, and I was hoping we had matured enough to handle our differences calmly. Recent events, however, have proven otherwise. Our relationship has deteriorated to the point that she's triggered by anything I say or do, and it's impossible to talk to her.

We've never had much in common, and our personalities are like oil and water. I'm thinking about backing out, even though I was looking forward to visiting New England and seeing my favorite singer in concert. I don't usually take time off from work, and I don't want to risk wasting vacation days possibly being miserable walking on eggshells. I know arguing with her will lead to nothing productive. How can I handle the situation differently? - FINISHED SISTER IN NEW YORK

DEAR SISTER: You stated that you were hoping that you and your sister had matured enough to manage a vacation together in spite of your differences. Rather than back out at the last minute, why not choose to be the more mature sister and simply not argue with her? That way you can see New England and enjoy your favorite singer in concert. You do not have to spend every spare moment with her; you are not joined at the hip.

If the trip proves to be unpleasant, agree to join your mother and sister under only limited circumstances - perhaps at breakfast or a dinner - in order to keep peace in the family.


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