Dear Abby: I am in a secret relationship; I’m afraid to tell my family

Dear ABBY: My 32-year-old niece’s mother-in-law, “Helen”, died seven months ago. I have been quietly seeing her widowed husband, “Wayne” for about three months. Until then we only knew each other socially. After Helen died, my niece, her husband and children went on vacation because Helen’s illness had been a long, long ordeal. I was tasked with making a late night call to Wayne to check, which I did. We realized we had a lot in common and as they say, the rest is history.

The problem is telling their children and grandchildren. He and Helen were married 59 years but didn’t have a happy marriage for the last 23. Should we tell them or continue to keep it a secret? — UNEXPECTED LOVE IN THE EAST

Dear Unexpected: Although you have no reason to sneak away, in my opinion you should remain silent for a few more months, until a year has passed since Helen’s death. Wayne should then tell the niece and other relatives that he thinks you have a lot in common and that you will see each other. In a perfect world, everyone would be happy that you both find happiness after so much sadness.

Dear ABBY: I have a colleague who has become an amazing friend over the past few years. We plan dinners or work conferences regularly, and also try to book spa appointments together when we have vacation time.

“Sandy” is everything a person would want in a friend. However, when we go out for lunch, she usually insists on paying for my meal. She has also pre-paid some of my spa appointments. When this pattern started, I was a little discouraged, but I appreciated his generosity, perhaps a little selfish, because it saved me money. But now I feel constantly indebted to her because I can never seem to return the favor.

When I insist on paying for myself, we argue and argue. Sandy says she wants to show her appreciation for my partnership at work. It also explains that I have kids (who are supposedly expensive) while she doesn’t have kids. She justifies it by rationalizing that her husband earns an impressive salary. They are comfortable, but not extravagant.

Lately, I’ve resented the situation because I don’t want to feel like a charity case. Not only am I more than able to pay for myself, but I also don’t want to feel limited when it comes to ordering food. Knowing that he will pay the bill makes me reluctant to order the food or drink of your choice.

How can I approach this without tarnishing our professional working relationship and the friendship we’ve built? Is this the altruism of a selfless person and my ego gets in the way? Or is there a deeper reason I haven’t considered? — TOO WELL TREATED

Dear Treaties: I assume you have already communicated to Sandy that this dynamic makes you uncomfortable and why. If you haven’t, do it now. It may be the soul of generosity, but some people use money as a means to control or dominate others. Without knowing Sandy, I can’t guess what motivates her, but clearly you two should be able to have a mature conversation without anyone getting defensive.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, aka Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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