DEAR ABBY: My companion of many years and I are retired and live a few hours away from some of his family. When one of them plans a visit, she always insists on taking us out for a meal. She doesn't ask if we would like to eat out but rather "commands" it. Then she insists on paying for the meal.

I enjoy cooking and visiting with family during and after meals. I know what our dietary restrictions are, and most restaurant meals do not meet those requirements, which include low sodium, fat and sugar and no gluten. According to my companion, I'm a good cook, and he enjoys everything I make.

I know I should say something, but what? I need a suggestion on how to deal with the situation without hurting anyone's feelings. — THANKS, BUT NO THANKS

DEAR T.B.N.T.: This relative may not mean to seem overbearing and may only be trying to be nice. Thank her warmly for wanting to take you to dinner, but tell her no. Explain that because of medical reasons, both of you must strictly limit the sodium, fat, sugar and gluten in your diet, which is why the two of you have decided it is "safer" to eat at home, where you can control what goes into your food. Then invite her to join you because you would love to see her and spend time with her while she's in town.


DEAR ABBY: I am in a difficult situation. My dear friends and bosses, "Rebecca" and "Caesar," are selling their home. They had offered to sell it to me and, at the time, I was interested in buying it. Then I did the one thing I never thought I would do. I found love. Because it's no longer just me, their house won't work for us. I was honest with my friends. They have been giving me the silent treatment ever since, and it's causing problems at work. What is a girl to do? — IN LOVE IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR IN LOVE: Recognize that Rebecca and Caesar are understandably upset that what they thought would be a quick and easy sale has now become more complicated. Explain to them again that you didn't mean to cause them a problem, but your circumstances changed. And if they continue to take out their disappointment by punishing you at work, look for another job.


DEAR ABBY: I agreed to pay for a cellphone for a friend's daughter while she went to school in the U.S. She was supposed to be here for three years. Well, it is now year four, and she's planning to stay here after graduation. How do I tell her that I am not willing to continue paying for her phone after graduation? — TRIED TO HELP IN TEXAS

DEAR TRIED TO HELP: You have several choices. You can tell her parents, write to her or call her on the cellphone you have so generously underwritten. And after you deliver the message, you should be thanked for your generosity not only by her but also her parents.


DEAR ABBY: I have been divorced for 26 years. I have been engaged a couple of times since, but never made it back to the altar. My ex-wife has now permanently separated from her second husband. I have helped her financially and emotionally through a couple of stressful situations in the interim due to her second husband.

I became available again myself about 18 months ago, so I have been considering inviting her to dinner to help her relax and give her someone to talk to other than family. The problem is, she still seems to regard me as "the enemy." She will speak to me, but it's just bare bones conversation. I have never stopped loving her. Should I ask her to dinner or just let things be? — STILL LOVIN' MY EX

DEAR STILL LOVIN': I wish you had mentioned what destroyed your marriage 26 years ago. Whatever it was, because your ex still seems to regard you as "the enemy," in spite of the fact that you have helped her financially and emotionally, I don't think what you have in mind is feasible. Sometimes it's safer to love someone from a distance, and this may be one of them.


DEAR ABBY: We live in the downstairs apartment of an old Victorian house that has been converted into three separate apartments. We try to be good neighbors and do our part keeping up with our neighborly duties. However, lately we've been finding ourselves the only ones doing our part.

Every Sunday evening, we roll out the garbage, recycling and compost bins for the Monday morning pickup. Currently, there is only one other tenant living here, a man who has been here for more than a year. Not once has he bothered to roll out these carts that he uses as well. How should we handle this without coming off as nagging or rude? — PEEVED IN PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR PEEVED: Your neighbor isn't a mind reader. He may think you are doing this as part of your deal with the landlord. If you haven't discussed this with your neighbor, you should. If you do, you may be able to agree on some sort of schedule.


DEAR ABBY: I graduated from law school several years ago. I didn't pass the bar, and I now have a non-law-related job. I am fine with it, and I really do not aspire to be in the field of law. My parents didn't help me with law school tuition, nor am I saddled with debt.

My problem is, some family members — and a few acquaintances — seem to think me almost a novelty. I get comments such as, "Hey, how's that degree working for you?" and "Are you ever going to use your degree?" and "Do you regret going to law school?" I find it really annoying. How can I put a stop to it? — NOT A LAWYER AND FINE

DEAR NOT A LAWYER: Tell these "curious" individuals that you do not regret going to law school because knowledge of the law is valuable when it's applied to other fields. As to how that degree is working for you, tell the questioner it's working so well you are now considering going for a degree in astrophysics.