DEAR ABBY: My husband, "George," and I have been married for 13 years. Last night he dropped a bombshell. He told me that while he loves me, he isn’t happy. He assured me he has no inclination to divorce me, but he pretty much laid the entire reason for his unhappiness at my feet.
I don’t handle people well. I love George and our son, but I am most relaxed and comfortable when I’m by myself. I don’t neglect them. We do lots of stuff outside the house as a family. I have no close friends, and that’s how I prefer it.
George’s complaint is that I keep him from having friends. I have never tried to stop him. In fact, I have encouraged him to cultivate friendships and hang out with "the guys," join groups, etc. He says he can’t do that and leave me at home. I wouldn’t mind his going out, but it’s nerve-racking for me to go.
Abby, in 13 years I don’t think I have ever looked George or my son in the eye. It’s not something I’m comfortable with. My husband knew how I was when he married me. What can I do? — OKLAHOMA LONER
DEAR LONER: You need to find out why you are unable to look even the people closest to you in the eye. Eye contact is an important part of communication, and that you are unable to do it even with your child is of concern to me. There may be a psychological or neurological reason for it.
While it’s fine for you to encourage your husband to socialize without you, it’s understandable that he would feel uncomfortable doing it all the time. He isn’t a bachelor. Couples usually socialize together, and the women often initiate the arranging.
If the root of your problem is a social anxiety disorder, there is help available for it. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist. For the sake of your marriage and your family, please don’t put it off.
DEAR ABBY: I’m thinking about marrying my longtime boyfriend, but I’m hesitant because he wants me to change my last name. I want to keep my maiden name as my mother did. Most of the women I look up to in my life kept their names.
My boyfriend says my wanting to keep my name tells him I am not committed. He says he’d be really hurt if I did it. I feel that retaining my name is the ultimate in female empowerment. The tradition of women changing their last name goes back to when we were treated as property and not educated. What do you think I should do? — FEMALE FIRST, WIFE SECOND
DEAR FEMALE FIRST: Women retain their maiden names for a variety of reasons: Many do it because they are established in their careers when they marry and feel a name change would be confusing. Others prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate. This shouldn’t be a contest of wills, and you should not change your name to prove the depth of your commitment.
Your boyfriend appears to be very traditional in his thinking. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what that would mean for your future if you marry him. Would he be willing to compromise if you offer to hyphenate your name with his? If he isn’t, and you feel giving up your name would make you feel like chattel, then perhaps you should look for a man whose beliefs are closer to your own.
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.