Girlfriend is unsure of her place in boyfriend’s heart

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating this guy for about a year. We are both 30. He lives at home. At first I thought it was to take care of his elderly father, but I soon realized it wasn't the case.

His mom is sweet, yet overbearing. She inserts herself into his life at every opportunity. She talks to him like he's the butler. ("Oh, perfect son of mine! Won't you clear off the dinner table/clean the kitchen/do everything?!") They cook together every night and attend church events together. He's in the choir with her because he said it "pleases" her. I think those are things he should be doing with a significant other.

I don't feel secure in this relationship because I don't know my place. I feel like I have to compete with her (even though she tries to include me in everything). I see how she manipulates him, and it tears me apart inside. (She needs him so much.) I view it as a hindrance to his own life. He is doing for her what he could be doing for himself or his own family, but he's stuck in this Mommy cycle.

He will receive a large inheritance when his parents die. Could that be why he does it? He is a great lover and emotionally intelligent, but he depends on his mother too much for my comfort. I caught them in a long embrace (hug) after she had been away all weekend with his father. Then she came over to us while we were watching a movie and started kissing his head! It grossed me out. Help! -- DON'T WANT THIS THREESOME

DEAR DON'T: After reading your letter, it's apparent that you are competing with his mother rather than she competing with you. There's a saying that if you want to know how a man will treat his wife, watch how he treats his mother. Rather than feel manipulated, be glad she tries to include you in the family circle. And keep in mind, if you want to enjoy the earthly rewards after the woman goes on to her heavenly one, she and her "perfect son" are a package deal.

DEAR ABBY: I purchased a beautiful Tiffany engagement ring, but my girlfriend rejected my proposal. I will get only pennies on the dollar if I sell it. Would it be acceptable to save it for a future engagement proposal? -- PRACTICAL IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR PRACTICAL: Your letter illustrates the impracticality of buying an engagement ring before proposing. Whatever happened to the tradition of proposing and then, if the person says yes, selecting a ring together?

In recent years -- thanks to social media -- engagements have become more like invitations to a high school prom -- elaborate and over-the-top. I do not think you should compound your mistake by offering another woman that ring in an effort to save money. If she were to find out, she would likely be both disappointed and hurt.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law is the WORST! She has no respect for me. She has stolen, lied and gossiped about me numerous times. Each time, I chose to forgive and move on.

Recently, my husband made clear that he wants to cut ties with his mother and siblings because they constantly belittle his success and ask to borrow money. My problem is, I can't agree to it. I despise his mother, but I was raised to believe families should never sever ties. I believe every family has its ups and downs.

My husband and I constantly argue because I continue to communicate with his mother and extend invitations to her. Abby, I just want to do the right thing, but I can't seem to figure out what the right thing to do is. -- S.O.S. IN GUAM

DEAR S.O.S.: Your husband's family is a threat to your financial stability and emotional health. Unless you want continuing discord in your marriage, respect your husband's wishes. Recognize that his family is extremely dysfunctional and do as he asks. If you don't, the arguments will escalate until they damage your relationship with him.

DEAR ABBY: After being in a bad marriage for 40 years, I finally left my husband in 2011. After two years of separation and therapy, we reconciled. During the time I was gone, he leaned on his longtime friends for support and shared lots of personal information about me, some of which was untrue.

The other evening while we were having dinner and drinks, a mutual friend and I were talking about health, and I told him I was hiding a certain hip problem from my husband. He asked why, because my husband had told him about it years ago. (I can't imagine why.)

The reason I left was my husband's anger at me over a hospital emergency room bill. I told this friend that my husband's concern for my health is not sincere because he had recently blown up at me for mentioning an upcoming doctor visit. I am on Medicare. Now I'm worried that I may have wrecked their friendship by revealing how uncaring a husband he really is. How did I get here? -- QUESTIONING MYSELF

DEAR QUESTIONING: How did you get here? You got here by remarrying a man who has such a big issue with spending money on health. If you stay with him, it could be catastrophic.

DEAR ABBY: I was taught (at home and in school) to speak first when entering a room, a building, etc. However, my wife's family doesn't practice this. Recently, her sister, upon entering a room I was in, failed to speak first. After I said hello, she said, "I was wondering when you were going to say something." Are there etiquette guidelines that speak to this situation? -- ENTERING IN THE EAST

DEAR ENTERING: If there is a rule about who should speak first, I confess I have never heard of it. I know that it is proper for a woman to extend her hand (first) in a social situation if she wants to observe the formality, but that's as far as it goes. When it comes to who says hello first, common sense should rule.