DEAR ABBY: I have been working through major anxiety issues with a therapist for the last few months. Sometimes he is very helpful; other times he goes off on tangents, talking about topics I don’t feel the need to discuss (and things that don’t necessarily pertain to me). I find it frustrating, and at times, it makes me angry (although I keep that to myself). How can I keep my therapist on track? Or, how can I break up with him without just ghosting him?

— Wants to make real changes

DEAR WANTS: As a patient, you are in a vulnerable position. Many times a patient will feel hesitant to tell a therapist that a line of conversation seems uncomfortable or irrelevant. However, because it is uncomfortable you should NOT let that stop you. Your therapist may explain to you why he is pursuing the issues. You can then accept or reject the explanation. If you continue to feel uncomfortable after that, you can “disengage” via a letter or a phone call. Ghosting is the coward’s way out, and I don’t recommend it.

DEAR ABBY: I don’t know how to refer to the man I love. We are both older and have been living together for years. Introducing him as my “boyfriend” makes me feel like a kid in a short-term relationship. I can’t use “husband” because we get our full benefits being single. (If we marry, we could lose half our income.)

I tried “partner,” but people assumed I was speaking of a business partner or a same-sex partner. “Lover” comes across as an extramarital affair. There has to be another word for a couple who lives together for years, like in a marriage, but who cannot marry.

— Unclassified in South Carolina

DEAR UNCLASSIFIED: You might refer to the gentleman as your honey, your sweetheart, your loved one or spouse — or simply by his name. Most of the people with whom you are speaking probably know you live together, and if they are new acquaintances, there is no requirement that you explain your marital or financial situation.

DEAR ABBY: My husband wants a puppy. He is almost 75 and plays golf four days a week. I’m 70 and work four days a week. I also do lots of volunteer work, which I enjoy.

I not only do not want the responsibility of a pet, but I also feel that a pet is a family member. It will need more attention than my husband has time to give, not to mention the time, effort and consistency needed to train a puppy. Our neighbor has a dog that my sweet hubby can play with every day if he wants to. Please help me.

— Retired pet lover in Louisiana

DEAR PET LOVER: If your sweet hubby feels the need to pet and cuddle a puppy, tell him he can do so at the local shelter. Then suggest that if he wants to adopt a dog, it should be an older one from a shelter or rescue group. If he does, you stand a better chance of winding up with a pet that is already trained and housebroken, and the responsibility for educating it won’t fall on your shoulders.

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

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