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Grandma talks her way out of family events

Dear Abby: My grandmother is 75 years old and, unfortunately, very unpleasant to be around. She has made many hurtful remarks in the past, which have led some family members to shut her out of their lives.

I live in another state and don't see my grandmother very often. I call her once or twice a month. When I do, she's nothing but pleasant with me, but she's often angry and tearful about other members of the family.

She feels her children and grandchildren should respect her as the matriarch of the family and include her in all family get-togethers. (My family tells me they have stopped inviting her to many functions because she's such a troublemaker.)

I'm concerned about my grandmother and am beginning to think that my parents and siblings should overlook her unpleasant behavior and occasional snide remarks. At the very least they should include her in important family functions. I'd be interested in your opinion, so I can share it with my family. – Troubled in Minnesota

Dear Troubled: Your grandmother appears to be reaping what she has sown. Verbal abuse often leaves scars on those at whom it is aimed, and no one can be blamed for wanting distance from a person who is deliberately hurtful.

Respect is something that has to be earned. Your parents and siblings "respect" your grandmother from a distance because they have learned it's the only safe way to do so.

Does this mean she should automatically be excluded from all family get-togethers?

No. However, before she's invited to an important event, she should give assurances that she'll watch her mouth and be on her best behavior. Or else.

If this seems heavy-handed, so be it. It's no crime to protect oneself from someone else's mean-spiritedness.

Dear Abby: Please allow me to share a dating technique with your readers that has saved me a lot of relationship headaches. I call it "the 90-day rule."

Whenever I start dating someone, I try to see them at least once a week for 90 days.

That way, if there are any character flaws, I find out within the first 90 days.

Among the flaws I've discovered: drug dealing and addiction, alcoholism, driving without a valid license and with illegal license tags, and lying about their occupation.

The idea is to avoid sexual intimacy during those first 90 days to keep your head clear. If you are intimate too soon, you'll find yourself making excuses for your partner. This technique has never failed me – unless I made an exception.

May I suggest your readers try this 90-day rule? If they do, I promise they won't be disappointed because it takes TIME to get to know someone. Before you can love someone, you must learn who that person really is. – Clearheaded in Clearwater, Fla.

Dear Clearheaded: Your 90-day rule makes a lot of sense. I have heard from many readers who went too far too fast because they felt they had made an instant emotional connection. I warn them that physical attraction should not be confused with love because what they're really describing is infatuation.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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