DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, “Jeff,” is a single parent. His daughter, “Nicole,” is 14. Jeff is very soft-spoken and even-tempered. He hates conflict and shies away from it if it arises. We have been in a loving and caring relationship for nine years. We don’t yell at each other or call each other names.

Over the last six months, Nicole’s behavior toward her father has changed radically. She has become verbally abusive toward him. When she speaks to him, she calls him names and uses ungodly language. I cringe when she starts screaming and cursing at him.

I moved out of the house because I can’t be part of a household like that – it made me sick. I have stated on more than one occasion that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and not normal. Jeff says he has read books that say that it is. It has driven a wedge between us. I’m concerned that if Nicole treats her father this way, how is she treating her peers, teachers or strangers? Have you any advice to offer? – HEARTSICK IN FLORIDA

DEAR HEARTSICK: Nicole’s behavior is neither normal nor acceptable. Your boyfriend should have asserted his authority the first time it happened. The longer he tolerates his daughter’s outbursts, the more they will escalate.

I don’t know what her problem is – whether she has fallen in with the wrong crowd, is experimenting with drugs or having emotional difficulties. But the time to get to the root of it and put a stop to it is NOW. And if your boyfriend refuses to face that fact and act like a parent, he is shirking his responsibility to his daughter.

DEAR ABBY: I need some advice. I married “Fritz” in February 2001, during a spur-of-the-moment trip to Las Vegas. Afterward, we decided we would wait to tell our parents because we wanted to have a traditional wedding and invite all of our relatives.

It has been more than four years, and I am still trying to get Fritz, at the bare minimum, to tell our families that we’re “engaged.” But if I bring up the subject, he gets angry and refuses to talk about it because he’s “not ready.”

Fritz keeps sending me mixed signals – he bought me a $2,500 diamond engagement/wedding ring, but I’m not allowed to wear it in front of any family members. He tells me he loves me and I’m the only person he’s going to spend the rest of his life with, but this has become a real strain on our relationship. I don’t understand why he won’t marry me publicly since we are already married legally. Please help me. – WANTS MY M.R.S. IN ILLINOIS

DEAR WANTS: It appears that the man you married still has a lot of growing up to do. He may have had second thoughts about marrying you, or he may be afraid of his parents’ reaction. He could also have a problem with commitment and feels that he’s “not really married” until there’s a formal announcement. Because I’m not a mind reader, I can’t be sure what his problem is.

However, there’s one thing I know for sure. The way you are being treated is degrading, and you should not tolerate it. Offer Fritz the option of marriage counseling, because whether or not he wants to admit it, you ARE married, or end this travesty once and for all.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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