DEAR ABBY: I have a much older sister who has become very religious. Most of her life decisions are based on her faith, so conversations tend to develop into faith-oriented topics and justifications. I don’t initiate these conversations, and I make a genuine effort to understand her perspective. When I am not able to, I have mastered the “smile and nod.”
My problem is, anytime I bring a friend or date to a family function, she drags them off to the side and begins to question and discuss the importance of faith. Since religion is a widely varied and highly sensitive topic, this can sometimes be uncomfortable. I recently asked her to stop doing it, and I haven’t heard from her since. How can I explain healthy boundaries to her so we can have a respectful relationship? — YOUNGER BROTHER IN GEORGIA
DEAR YOUNGER BROTHER: If part of your sister’s religion is advancing it or converting others to her faith, you won’t be able to convince her to stop. I agree that what she’s doing can come across as obnoxious. Because you can’t control what she says or does, you may have to stop bringing friends or dates to family functions where you know she’ll be present. Otherwise, warn them in advance so they can either avoid being cornered or get away from her.
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend was my first crush in grade eight. We are in our late 40s now. He was in a relationship for 17 years with a woman who has three daughters. One hasn’t talked to either parent in years. The other two drink, use drugs and have kids of their own. They often ask to “borrow” money, but never pay it back. One of them asked me for enough to put down a deposit for rent on a house. I have two of my own children and my exes don’t support them, so I’m wondering how responsible I am for his ex-girlfriend’s kids. — NOT GONNA HAPPEN
DEAR NOT GONNA: You have no legal, moral or ethical obligation to the children your boyfriend raised with his former girlfriend. Stick to your guns, dear lady, because you are off the hook if you have the backbone to stay that way.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 50-year-old male. When I interact with a woman whose name I don’t know, I address her as “Dear.” Surprisingly, many of them respond in a negative way, regardless of age. Is it wrong to call someone “Dear”? And if so, what should I call them if I don’t know their name? — UNSURE IN IOWA
DEAR UNSURE: The women may respond the way they do because they consider being called “Dear” by a stranger to be overly familiar or even condescending. (Other titles to avoid would be “Honey” and “Young Lady,” if the woman appears to be past the age of 30.) Be safe — and respectful — by addressing them as Miss or Ma’am.
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.