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Dear Abby: I have a 59-year-old brother-in-law who has always been a “proud bachelor.” He isn’t a rich, handsome, George Clooney-type bachelor, but a hand-to-mouth, burping, uncouth “Shallow Hal” kind of bachelor. He befriended a woman with four daughters, paying most of his attention to one of the daughters. He would take the woman and her girls to dinner, and take the daughters shopping without the mother.

Fast forward eight years. He wants to take the one daughter on a trip to Hawaii. And he has been telling everyone she is now 18 (the girl is still in high school). Should I say something to him, or mind my own business? He will likely hang up on me. I don’t know the daughters or their mom well. Am I wrong to hear some alarm bells going off?

Wary in Washington

Dear Wary: No, you are not wrong. The statement that the girl is “now 18” is a red flag for me, too. Rather than talk to your brother-in-law, inform the mother that he may be “grooming” her daughter for something more than an innocent tour of the islands. She should have noticed something was amiss eight years ago, when one daughter was singled out for special treatment, and put a stop to it then.

Dear Abby: I divorced my wife eight years ago. But she still takes every opportunity to make me look bad in front of her family and mine.

I met someone recently, and we care deeply for each other. There are no marriage plans for the future, but I don’t want to keep our relationship a secret. I’m reluctant to tell the family about her because of the fallout it may create, and for fear that my son and daughter may prevent me from seeing my grandchildren. My new lady is 19 years my junior, which won’t help the situation. I am at a loss about what to do. Can you help?

Panic in Pittsburgh

Dear Panic: Eight years after your divorce it should surprise no one that you have finally met someone. Because your ex-wife’s pattern of behavior all this time has been to try to make you look bad, your family should recognize it for what it is — the reaction of an unhappy and bitter woman who would probably do the same thing even if you entered a monastery.

Live your life and don’t let it be ruled by fear. You divorced your ex eight years ago, but fear is the ball and chain by which she still controls you.

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

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