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Language barrier leaves girlfriend out in the cold

Dear Abby: I recently started dating one of my graduate school classmates. We come from different cultures, but we get along great and I really like him.

My problem is he’s very close to his family, who seem to like me very much, but I always feel left out around them. An example: The nine of us went out to dinner and the whole time they were speaking to each other in their native tongue while I just sat there. Then, after dinner, his parents asked why I was so quiet.

The family speaks English fluently and are otherwise nice to me. When I confronted my boyfriend about it, he said it would be disrespectful for him to speak to his elders in English.

I want a future with this man, but I know it won’t work out if I can’t be included in his family. Am I wrong to think they should involve me in the conversation?

– Outsider in New York

Dear Outsider: In light of the fact that everyone knows you don’t speak the language, their behavior does seem inconsiderate – particularly if it’s happening often. Perhaps you should speak to them about it and ask to be included in the conversation. An alternative would be to take a crash course in their native tongue so you’ll have some idea about what’s being said. (And won’t they be surprised when you respond!)

One thing about your letter does concern me, however, because it raises a potential red flag. Does your boyfriend’s unwillingness to stand up for you foretell a pattern of always deferring to his parents? If that’s the case, it could be a source of frustration and conflict for you in the future. Please think about it.

Dear Abby: I have been in a steady, committed relationship with my boyfriend, “Carey,” for 4 years. We have discussed our future and have agreed that we want to get married and start a family soon.

As a child, I always dreamed of a big, fancy wedding. Carey, on the other hand, says he doesn’t want one. He feels it would be a waste of money. After a lot of discussion, we decided to compromise and have a courthouse wedding followed by a small, simple reception.

My biggest issue is he insists we don’t need rings, and he refuses to get me one. Although I have explained that a ring would symbolize our love and life together, and it would mean a great deal to me personally, he won’t budge. Now I’m beginning to doubt whether I want to marry him.

What should I do? Am I being superficial?

– Confused About Marriage

Dear Confused: I don’t think that wanting a wedding ring is superficial. It’s normal. Furthermore, if you have any doubts about marrying this young man, you should put the wedding on hold until the two of you have had premarital counseling. Arguments about how money should be spent have ruined marriages, and it appears the two of you are planets apart on this important issue.

Dear Abby: What is proper when opening gift cards with money enclosed? My family has made it a habit for the nieces to open their cards in front of everyone. I feel it should be done in private.

– Uncomfortable in Pennsylvania

Dear Uncomfortable: Opening the card is fine. Reading the sentiments inside is also perfectly acceptable. But to reveal the amount of the check or money enclosed is a no-no.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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