DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for 34 good years. He's a little older than I am and was married twice before we met while in our 20s. (They were very brief marriages.) When we married, I knew about one of his marriages, but learned about the other one only much later from his sister. I was stunned and felt betrayed that he hadn't told me, but we worked it out.
My husband loves to tell stories about everything he's ever done, but he never says a word about those earlier relationships. Long ago, I asked a few times about what happened, and he cut me off. My question is why, especially after our 34 years together, can't he be straight with me once and for all and tell me what happened?
I haven't brought this up in a long time, but it seems like we should be able to talk about it openly. I'm curious, but not in a petty way. I just wonder what happened. In the past he has said it is "none of my business."
Why is he so rude and closemouthed about these marriages from so long ago? Should I never ask again? — MISSING THE WHOLE STORY
DEAR MISSING: I am guessing the reason your husband reacts the way he has when you tried to talk about his first two marriages is because he is ashamed about what happened. He may have cheated on his wives, or they cheated or took advantage of him in some way. I don't blame you for wanting to know your husband's history, but your marriage has worked for 34 years, and really, how relevant is this information in the scheme of things? Let it go.
DEAR ABBY: After my sister got pregnant, she married the baby's father. They struggle financially, and my family helps as much as we can, but it still isn't enough.
Her husband has no high school diploma, and he has a criminal record from 20 years ago, although he hasn't been in trouble since. He claims he has dyslexia and health problems, but he still smokes and drinks. No doctor will sign off on his being disabled. He isn't motivated enough to find a job or help my sister with chores. She finally asked me to help by talking to him.
How do I start a conversation with him to say he needs to step up and contribute? We're cordial but not close. I don't want to alienate him. He has threatened to take my nephew, but he has no money or place to go. This man is 40 years old and lives like a teenager. Any advice? — ANNA IN ILLINOIS
DEAR ANNA: Your brother-in-law isn't likely to listen to you any more than he has listened to your sister. If there are any male relatives in your family, it might be more effective if he hears the message from them. The fact that he may (or may not) have dyslexia is no excuse for his lack of motivation. Many successful people have dyslexia and are able to thrive.
Because your sister's husband is threatening to take their child and run, she should talk to a lawyer about what steps she needs to take in order to prevent this deadbeat from following through. Call your state bar association or contact a local law school for guidance about getting low-cost or free legal advice. She may also want to ask about divorce so she doesn't wind up supporting him forever.
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.