DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my wife for two years, after being together for 10 years. We have two kids with a third on the way. Our relationship is great. It's healthy.
I just have this feeling of loneliness. I feel like I have my children and that's it. My mind often wanders to a woman from the past. I would never leave my children because they are my world. I just cannot control or ignore these chronic feelings of unhappiness and loneliness. I'll be honest: I wish I could just have one conversation with said woman. I don't know what to do. — RON IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR RON: "One conversation" with the woman from your past won't fix what has gone wrong with your marriage. You have a responsibility to your wife and your growing family. What you are experiencing could be symptoms of depression. You may be feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities you now carry and subconsciously yearning for the carefree years you enjoyed before you were formally married. Before you feel more alienated than you already do, I urge you to talk this out with a licensed psychotherapist.
DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who has a habit of giving me unsolicited gifts. It's little things like string lights for my patio or a small toy for my daughter, but it makes me feel obligated to give her a gift back.
I would rather not be stuck in this continual gift exchange loop, especially during a pandemic when you're not supposed to be seeing people outside your household. This friend has shown up unannounced at my doorstep to drop off a gift without letting me know she's coming.
The last gift she offered I refused because it was an offensive toy that wasn't age appropriate for my daughter. Was I right to do that? How can I stop this cycle without hurting my friend's feelings? — GIFTED IN THE WEST
DEAR GIFTED: Understand that this friend may not give you these gifts out of generosity, but because it gives her an excuse to interact with you. You have a right to refuse any item intended for yourself or your child that you feel is inappropriate. Jump off the gift-giving treadmill by telling this person her friendship is enough and you will no longer accept any gifts because it makes you uncomfortable.
DEAR ABBY: I have an older relative who uses the word "whatever" when she is done discussing something. I don't think she realizes how dismissive it comes across to others. It's as if she doesn't care about the other person's opinion or comments. It creates a barrier with family, and I think people distance from her because of it. I avoid talking to her because it's so blunt and rude. How can I explain that the word now has a negative connotation and should be avoided? — STAYING AWAY TO NOT GET HURT
DEAR STAYING AWAY: Address it the next time she uses "whatever" in conversation with you. ASK if she is using the word because she isn't interested in what you are trying to convey and what she means by it. THEN explain how hearing it made you feel, because it may not have been her intent. (If it was, then you, too, have a right to distance yourself.)
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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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