Dear Abby: Couple wrestles with communication breakdowns

DEAR ABBY: I love my wife very much, but we are, unfortunately, having a communication/interpretation issue. She is inquisitive and asks a lot of questions. I become defensive when I'm questioned. Sometimes I feel it shows a lack of confidence or trust in me. My wife says I am being too sensitive.

There are times when I infer a negative tone where there is none, and others when I believe my perception is spot-on. Sometimes, I suspect she's unwilling to accept any answer that does not match her own thinking. She comes from a family where correcting each other, even over the smallest thing, is common. She's an educator, so in some ways, it's part of her job.

My wife seems unable to use alternative phrasing that is less likely to trigger a defensive response. When we have conflict over this, it seems I am always the one who has to give ground. When I try to explain my feelings, it only makes things worse. When I choose to be more assertive, it results in more escalation. I am blessed with a spouse who is independent, strong-minded and outspoken. How can I develop a thicker skin so I won't feel like I am second-guessed at every turn? When should I speak up? -- MISUNDERSTOOD IN TEXAS

DEAR MISUNDERSTOOD: NOW would be a good time to speak up. When you do, tell your wife -- the educator -- that you feel second-guessed at every turn, and it's time to enlist the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist so you two can improve your communication skills. If she's willing, it could be helpful for your marriage. If she isn't, then go without her to help you figure out whether you really are "too sensitive."

DEAR ABBY: My best friend, whom I've known most of my life, has a 7-year-old grandson. The boy, "Cody," is spoiled, rude and makes obnoxious comments to adults. They'll make plans to visit us on a weekend evening when my wife and I want to chill out. While they are here, Cody gets loaded up on sugar, snoops through rooms and picks up breakable objects while watching us to see our reaction. He also does calisthenics and runs around while he's here. He makes snotty comments to us that my friend encourages and thinks are funny. As much as I love my friend, how do I tell him that his grandson is no longer welcome? -- IN A CONUNDRUM

DEAR IN A CONUNDRUM: Has it occurred to you that Cody may have problems more serious than a sugar buzz? The behavior you describe can be symptoms of ADHD and/or learning disabilities. If Cody hasn't been evaluated by a medical professional, he should be. If you truly love this friend, suggest it and tell him why. If he ends your relationship because of it, you will no longer be subjected to Cody's unfortunate behavior. On the other hand, if my concern is on target, you could change that boy's life for the better, because he doesn't act out only at your house.

New couple emerges following pair of divorces

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I hope you can answer a question for us. Two couples we were extremely close with for more than 10 years were divorced two and three years ago. We have just been told that Husband A has been secretly dating Wife B for six months. Wife A and Wife B were "besties." The men were good friends, but not best friends like the women. Both couples were married for more than 25 years. They are all in their mid- to late 50s. My question is, is there a code where you don't date one of your friend's exes? -- TAKEN ABACK IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR TAKEN ABACK: While divorce among long-married older adults ("gray divorces") may seem shocking to you, it has become more common. Many women are more economically independent than they were in decades past. In the wake of the long COVID lockdowns, people have been reevaluating not only their relationships, but also their career paths -- and deciding to try something they feel might be more rewarding. The situation you have described is regrettable, but it is no longer shocking. Be smart. Remain on the sidelines and don't judge.

DEAR ABBY: I lost my husband six months ago. He was my world, and I miss him terribly. We were together for 42 years and raised five beautiful children. I want to go back to school and get recertification as an EMT. My goal is to reach paramedic level. I'll be 62 on my next birthday and have a few health problems. (Don't we all?) Is my goal realistic? I plan to use these skills by volunteering in my community. I was a nationally certified EMT and hospital corpsman in my younger days. I just want to feel useful again. -- NEXT PHASE IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR NEXT PHASE: Please accept my condolences for the loss of your husband. If you can meet the physical qualifications, and since you already have the training, go for it! If you do, the payoff could be the emotional satisfaction you are seeking. I wish you the best of luck.

DEAR ABBY: Why do former classmates still send Facebook friend requests 16 years after we have graduated? These are people I barely had contact with or none at all while we were in school. I knew of them because of the yearbook, but other than that -- nothing. Is this common? Was it because they came across the "people you may know" feature and saw what I look like today and think I'm cute and what they missed out on? -- MYSTIFIED IN WASHINGTON

DEAR MYSTIFIED: It's possible because of the miracle of the internet. However, not everyone falls into that category. Some former classmates may be reaching out because they are lonely, curious about what life has dealt their peers or trying to reconnect to a more carefree time than they are experiencing today. If you don't wish to be contacted, you are free to delete the messages.

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.