Dear Abby: When going gets tough, husband locks his door

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: When my husband and I fight, which isn’t really that often, he shuts himself away for several days. He locks the door to his office or the guest room and won’t come out. I try to give him time to cool off, but sometimes it’s awkward. He wouldn’t talk to me at all for several days while his whole family was here celebrating his grandma’s 90th birthday.

He’s mad again. I apologized by text since he wouldn’t talk to me, but our kids — ages 6 and 8 — are going to wonder why Daddy isn’t with us. Should I skip a planned event and give him more time to cool off or try to approach him?

— Waiting for him in Georgia

Jeanne Phillips

Dear Waiting: Skip the planned event, and when your passive-aggressive husband comes out of hiding, insist the two of you get marriage counseling to resolve your differences. What he has been doing isn’t healthy for your marriage. Dealing with conflict by hiding and using the silent treatment to punish one’s spouse sets a poor example for your children, who are old enough to recognize that something is wrong between Daddy and Mommy. If he won’t do it for the sake of your marriage, he should do it for the emotional health of those kids.

Dear Abby: I will be meeting an old high school friend for lunch. We are now in our 50s. I heard through the grapevine that she never had children. I am unsure what to say when the subject of children comes up, as it invariably will. “I’m sorry” may not be appropriate because perhaps she never wanted any. “Wow” or “interesting” may sound a bit odd.

In a similar vein, what does one say to someone when they share that they are divorced? I recall a woman I met telling me she was divorced. I said, “I’m sorry,” and she replied, “I’m not!” What’s an appropriate response for when these situations happen? I don’t want to appear unsympathetic, but perhaps they don’t want sympathy.

— Sympathetic in Florida

Dear Sympathetic: You may have hit on something. The birthrate in the United States is at an all-time low because many women have chosen to forgo motherhood. If someone tells you she doesn’t have children, all you have to say is “Oh,” and change the subject. You should not interrogate the person further. As for the subject of divorce, sometimes dissolution of a marriage is therapeutic. Do not ask for — or expect — more details. Show an interest in what your old friend is doing NOW and move on from there.

Dear Abby: My late husband was a dentist. Should I include his DDS degree on his headstone?

Not Sure in the South

Dear Not Sure: Although your husband may be deceased and no longer practicing dentistry, it doesn’t make him any less a dentist. He earned his degree. If you would like it carved in granite, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. Inquire at the cemetery about its protocol.

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