Dear Ann:

My husband and I have been married 27 years. We live in a run-down house on a small lot in an undesirable neighborhood. We both work and make enough money to afford a nicer house in a better part of town, but my husband refuses to discuss the matter. He also hides money and has a separate bank account in addition to the one we have together. I'm afraid he likes money more than he likes me. I am not overweight, ugly or stupid, nor do I think he is having an affair.

Here's my question: Should I keep after him to buy me another house -- or should I buy a house on my own and hope he joins me? (I have enough money to do this.) I've considered resigning myself to living in this house for the sake of our marriage, even though it makes me desperately unhappy. I've also considered remodeling, but the plumbing and heating are shot, and as I said, the neighborhood has deteriorated. Please tell me what to do, Ann.

Miserable in Pennsylvania

Counseling might help you resolve the issue. If Scrooge refuses to budge, however, buy your dream house and move into it. I'm betting it won't take long before he joins you. Money is a cold companion when there is no one else.

Dear Ann:

Why do people make such harsh judgments against divorced women who let their children live with their fathers?

I am a 29-year-old mother of two boys, ages 8 and 10. After my divorce, I moved to a bigger city to take on a new job. I didn't feel capable of giving my children the care they deserved. My ex-husband married a wonderful woman who takes excellent care of my sons and loves them very much. The boys and I stay in close touch, talk on the phone often and have frequent visits. They like where they are, are honor-roll students, and I am thrilled that they are doing so well. It took a lot of unselfishness on my part to allow my children to live with their father, and it hurts when I hear awful things said about me. How should I respond?

Sad in Kentucky

No response is necessary. Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. You deserve a lot of credit for doing what you felt was best for your sons, and should take pride in seeing them do well. Heap praise and thanks on their stepmom at every opportunity, and hold your head up. Knowing you took the high road should provide you with the emotional armor needed to protect yourself against the verbal harpoons.

Dear Ann:

Please help me with a problem that is bothering me to no end. It's my 80-year-old neighbor, "Matilda." She is getting on my nerves. It is impossible to carry on a conversation with her because she talks nonstop. If anyone asks a question or makes a comment, she babbles right over them.

Matilda has traveled extensively and could be an interesting conversationalist, but all she talks about is how tacky people look in the supermarket these days, how trashy the TV sitcoms have become and the various medications she is taking for her wide variety of illnesses. The neighbors avoid her, and she has very few visitors. I would like to be closer to Matilda, but I can't stand the nonstop talking.

Should I write her a letter and tell her the truth? She has a daughter who lives out of state. Would it help if I wrote to her about this? The only other option is to avoid her completely. I hope you have a better idea.

Anonymous in Prescott, Ariz.

I would be willing to bet Matilda has a hearing problem. All the symptoms are present. Please suggest that she have her doctor arrange an appointment to test her hearing. Be a good neighbor, and go with her. She will be grateful.

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