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DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced mother of two teenagers. I've been seeing my boyfriend, "Sean," for almost five years, and when the pandemic started, he moved in with us. I am supposed to share custody of my teens with their father, alternating weeks. However, his job requires travel, and the kids are with me more often than not, with little to no notice. They are also reaching an age where they don't really want to go to their dad's all the time.

This has caused some tension with my boyfriend. He feels we never get "alone time" anymore. He then withholds affection from me, as if I've done something wrong by having my kids. Since he moved in, our sex life has dwindled to almost nonexistent. He refuses to be intimate when the kids are home, yet he hasn't made the most of the "alone time" we do have when the kids aren't here. He usually goes to bed early, without so much as a goodnight kiss. Or he'll go out on weekend days and not include me.

I have been cheated on in the past, and my insecurities are starting to rear their ugly heads. I don't know how to talk to him because he gets defensive and gaslights any issues I bring up. I don't feel safe sharing my hurt with him, let alone sharing my anger at him for trying to make me feel bad for being a mom. I'm losing hope and feel myself shutting down. How can I approach him in a way that he won't get defensive? — FIGHTING A LOSING BATTLE

DEAR FIGHTING: There are red flags all over your letter. You are going to be an active mother until your children are at least 18. That this man would move into your home and give you heartburn about your responsibilities is terrible. You state that your sex life is over, and when you raise other important issues, he gaslights you. This does not bode well for a healthy future.

His defensiveness when you attempt to have an adult discussion with him isn't your real problem. Getting him out of your home and your life before he wastes any more of your time is what you should focus on.

DEAR ABBY: What is proper etiquette when attending an event and sitting at a table with more than six people? I think it's rude to talk to a person across the table. Talking to a person next to you is acceptable. Talking to someone across the table is rude because the other diners must stop talking to the person seated next to them and be forced to listen to your conversation. Seeing this happen is becoming more and more annoying. What do you think? — FORCED TO LISTEN

DEAR FORCED: While that rule of etiquette may have been true in Edwardian times, table etiquette today is no longer so rigid. While, of course, it is desirable to converse with the guests seated next to you, unless communicating with someone across the table requires one to shout — which would be distracting and disruptive — I see nothing rude about it.

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.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447 (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips
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