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Dear Abby: I am a 35-year-old single man. Three years ago, I took legal custody of my niece (who is now 8) to prevent her from becoming a ward of the state. Her parents were drug addicts. Shortly afterward, my mother moved in to help me raise her, which is greatly needed and appreciated.

The problem is, I had to dramatically alter my lifestyle — no more staying out late on weekends or impromptu trips to visit college buddies — and worst of all, an end to dating.

I used to go out with a lot of women, but I haven’t been with anyone in more than two years. I didn’t like the idea of bringing ladies around my niece and she might never see that lady again. It was easier to just give up dating than to deal with her questions and looks of confusion. She has had enough instability in her young life, and I didn’t want to add to it.

Now I’m starting to get lonely, and I’m not sure how to get back into the dating scene. How would I explain my living situation to a potential wife: “I have a kid and my mother living with me, and that’s not going to change. Interested?”

Abby, any thoughts or suggestions would be welcomed.

Lonely By Design in West Virginia

Dear Lonely: Explain your living situation to the women you meet in much the same way as you have explained it to me. You are taking care of your 8-year-old niece with the help of your mother because, if you hadn’t stepped up, she would have become a ward of the state.

Any mature woman who is worth her salt will respect that, just as I do. Immature women who are only looking for a good time — or a meal ticket — will probably run in the opposite direction, which is a good thing.

You won’t find what you’re looking for in bars, as you may have done in the past. You would probably have better luck if you join a group like Parents Without Partners or ask some of your married friends if they know someone nice.

Dear Abby: My family and I were watching a popular annual awards show recently. Like most of these, this one included an “In Memoriam” segment in which was featured a slideshow of the photos and names of people from the field who had died during the year.

The segment was well done and very meaningful. When it was over and the lights went back up, the audience clapped. My family applauded, too. That made me feel uncomfortable, so I didn’t join in. What are your thoughts on applause at a memorial tribute?

To Clap Or Not To Clap

Dear T.C.O.N.T.C.: Audiences clap for many reasons — among them, a spontaneous gesture of emotion or to show appreciation. (Some may do it because everyone else is doing it.) However, in this circumstance, it is not required or prohibited. As long as the applause is sincere, I think it is appropriate.

Dear Abby: I have been having a problem with my husband ever since his mom died. All he talks about is how much he misses her and how he wants to die.

I loved his mother like she was my own, but it has been a year since she went, and I’m getting tired of the attitude and the behavior he displays. He is so mean now that I am thinking of leaving him because I can’t take it anymore. Can you help?

Tired of It

Dear Tired of It: It is one thing to grieve for a deceased loved one, and quite another to say you wish you could join the person. Your husband is “stuck” in his grieving process and needs professional intervention. Please urge him to get help.

Was he always mean and abusive? If the answer is yes, by all means give serious thought to getting away. If not, tolerate it a little longer — providing he’s willing to admit he needs to talk to someone and follows through.

Dear Abby: I am getting married soon, and I am not inviting one of my co-workers, “Darrell,” who I know will be hurt. I have looked up to him as an uncle for a few years. We eat lunch together and share gossip, but my fiance and I decided not to invite him even though we are inviting other people from the office.

Darrell was recently arrested for supposedly raping his daughter. He went to court, but the daughter failed to appear, so the charges were dropped.

I know he could be innocent, but my fiance and I do not want him at our wedding around family and kids. I don’t know how to tell him he won’t be invited. What should I say or not say?

Bride-to-Be in the USA

Dear Bride-to-Be: I can’t think of a polite way to tell someone you’re afraid your family members wouldn’t be safe around him, and I don’t think it will be necessary because Darrell is going to get the picture without anything being said.

It’s regrettable that your co-worker didn’t have his day in court because at the office it appears he has already been found guilty. It goes without saying that you have to find a luncheon partner and mentor besides Darrell, so be prepared.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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