DEAR ABBY: I work from home, so I do not need to get dressed up every day. I wear T-shirts and athletic shorts because I usually coach my sons in after-school sports and want to be comfortable. Every day, my wife complains about my appearance, comparing me to other fathers. She also has no problem yelling about it in front of my kids or her family. This happens often. She says, “People won’t want to do business with you if you dress like that!”
Anytime I see a client, I dress for the occasion. Since she seems to have no problem saying anything about my appearance, can I say something about the weight she has gained over the last couple of years? Since she says stuff like that to me, I think it’s only fair that I should be allowed to say something to her. — COMFORTABLE IN THE EAST
DEAR COMFORTABLE: Say anything you wish, but before you open your mouth, ask yourself whether it would be helpful or inflame the situation. Many people prefer to dress casually, and sometimes others can be judgmental about it — your wife being only one of them. As strongly as your wife may feel about your choice of attire, she’s wrong to criticize you in front of others, because berating you will not improve the state of your marriage.
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend lost his sister unexpectedly to a heart attack. She was only 50. I’m trying to be there for him and give him his space while he’s grieving. The thing is, he has stopped responding or contacting me. Every few days, I’d send him words of support, but he doesn’t respond — not with a “thank you” or anything. This has been happening for the past week.
Finally, I figured that he’s ghosting me and no longer wants to be bothered with me but doesn’t want to say it. So I told him I didn’t want to add to his stress, that I felt he was over our relationship and I wouldn’t bother him anymore. He responded, saying I’m taking it too personally, there’s nothing I can do to help and it’s something he has to go through.
I know that. I understand grieving. But am I supposed to just wait until he feels like talking or being bothered with me, for however long it takes? I’m trying to be understanding, but for someone to just cut you off and not even acknowledge you is awful. I mean, he’s completely emotionally unavailable, like I don’t exist! I don’t know what to do. — PUSHED ASIDE IN THE SOUTH
DEAR PUSHED: Here’s what to do. Back off! Since you understand grieving, you must know that no two people grieve exactly alike or on the same timetable. Your boyfriend has told you explicitly what he needs. If you care about him, give him space and stop personalizing this. His emotional needs must come before your own right now. Distract yourself by seeing friends or involving yourself in activities you can enjoy for the next month or so. If you do, when he’s feeling more like himself again, he will come back to you.
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 DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.