Dear Abby: Needy friend keeps me on the phone for hours

Woman wants to reduce contact with former co-worker now in a nursing home.

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DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, a gay man in his 60s. We met while we worked for the same company 11 years ago, and have stayed in touch even after I moved out of state. He has never had a relationship. He didn’t have a great childhood or upbringing, and his self-esteem is low. Because of his poor eating and living habits, he is now in a nursing home and dependent on others for his care.

My problem is, he’s very needy and he calls me regularly to talk. We have little in common (politically, spiritually, emotionally) but he keeps me on the phone for one, two or even three hours — usually late in the evening — until I finally tell him I am sleepy and need to go to bed. I hate to not take his call, but I cringe when I see it’s him calling. Sometimes I tell him I’m watching an important TV program or have to get up early (even when I don’t).

I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I have tried to be there for him, although he ignores my advice about anything related to health or finances or being proactive about his care. He’s very self-effacing and doesn’t want to offend anyone. I’m not really helping other than to provide contact. (He has others as well.) Could you tell me what I could say to him without hurting him? — KIND LADY IN THE NORTHWEST

DEAR KIND LADY: You need to decide how much time you want to devote to listening to this poor man. Would 30 minutes every few weeks be workable for you? When you see it’s him calling, do not pick up if you don’t feel in the mood for the conversation.

DEAR ABBY: I’ve noticed for the past several years that my wife of more than 40 years has been “forgetting” to wear her wedding and engagement rings. Her excuses were that the rings didn’t fit anymore or were causing a rash, etc. I thought she might be embarrassed over the size of the diamond compared to her friends’ rings, so I had the rings resized to fit her finger and offered to buy her a larger diamond ring. She changed her mind about the diamond size after recognizing how much it would cost.

Now I’m wondering if I’m being too “controlling” or unreasonable for expecting her to wear her rings. I understand there are times that rings should not be worn for fear of damage. What are your thoughts? — DEVOTED HUSBAND IN THE SOUTH

DEAR HUSBAND: Some women no longer want to wear expensive jewelry for fear of being assaulted and robbed. A wedding ring isn’t supposed to function like the brand on a bovine. Not every wife wears one. (Need I point out that many married men forgo wearing them as well?) If someone is married in their heart, they may not feel they need the symbol. Unless you’re worried your wife may be cheating, my advice to you is to ease up.

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.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: “Abby’s Favorite Recipes” and “More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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