DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my husband for five years. He’s the man of my dreams, and we have a wonderful marriage. Recently we learned that his ex-wife — to whom he was married for 20 years — has been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. They have two adult children together.

I have never questioned my husband’s love or devotion to me. What’s bothering me is his reaction to the news. They had a horrible relationship and never got along, but he is very upset over this. I’m not sure how to handle this. I don’t want to seem insensitive, but the emotion he is showing for her has really hurt me. I realize she’s the mother of his children, but they have been divorced for years. Please help me understand what’s going on with him. — STRONG EMOTIONS

DEAR STRONG EMOTIONS: Not knowing your husband, I can only hazard a few guesses. Although he and his ex-wife have been divorced for years, the idea of a possibly fatal illness striking someone who was once so close may be what’s upsetting him. Or he may feel some guilt because of the circumstances of their divorce. Or her diagnosis may have been a chilly reminder of his own mortality. I hope this will give you some insight, because you are going to have to be patient with him until this is resolved.

DEAR ABBY: I need advice on how to enjoy my life and not allow the toxic environment of my job to overwhelm me. My job was nice when I started 12 years ago, and I enjoy helping people. I process payments for disabled people in a cubicle setting. However, my place of employment has become a backstabbing, uncaring, favoritism-oriented environment.

I am well-paid and have good health insurance, so I need to stay. But I am very sad each day going into work. It is affecting the way I interact with my children and my husband. Any ideas on how to get past the horrible day in the office so I can be at peace at home? — DREADING IT

DEAR DREADING: I do have a few suggestions. When it’s time to take your break, use it as an opportunity to escape the toxic environment. Put on headphones and listen to upbeat music, read a book or leave the office to eat lunch or have a snack. If possible, take a short walk or meditate and do breathing exercises to relax. Then, after work, before interacting with your children and your spouse, give yourself the ”gift” of a 15- to 30-minute walk or jog, which may help you to draw a firm line of demarcation between your work life and your home life. And take your vacation time to get away and replenish your spirit.

DEAR ABBY: We have an adult relative who seems to feel it is appropriate to color a picture out of a coloring book in lieu of a gift or money for graduations, weddings, etc. She also seeks approval from everyone at these events to comment on how beautiful it is, to praise her for her coloring ability and how much time it took. We are tired of getting coloring book pictures as gifts. How can we get her to stop? — MIFFED IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MIFFED: You may be tired of receiving those artistic efforts, but to say that to the relative who gave them to you would be beyond rude. Accept them graciously, and thank the person for the ”time and effort” it took to complete them. What you do with them afterward is your own business.

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

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