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DEAR ABBY: My dad died when I was young. He and Mom had a beautiful marriage. Mom was in a long relationship following his death and has been single for three years now. She has been spending lots of time with a family friend who lost his wife some time ago. They have known each other for years, even when Dad was alive.

She goes over to his place for romantic dinners, they talk on the phone at least once a day, and he helps her with anything she needs around the house. He goes above and beyond to show her he's interested in her without actually saying those words, and he has told her she needs to take him more seriously when he invites her on trips because she laughs it off.

Mom flip-flops between being interested and being convinced he doesn't want a serious relationship. Everyone around her thinks she's crazy not to give it a try. I don't know how much I can push her. I haven't seen her this happy in years. I think she's scared and nervous, and I also think she'll regret it if she keeps rejecting his overtures. I think the ball is in her court now. I need help convincing her to pursue this. What can I do? — HOPEFUL DAUGHTER IN CANADA

DEAR HOPEFUL: Tell your mother it's time to stop laughing and have a serious conversation with this man. Their relationship stands no chance of progressing further if she isn't willing to allow it.

DEAR ABBY: My fiance has a female friend he has known since they were 15 years old. She's always in the way, and he always makes excuses for anything she does wrong. The most frequent excuses are, "She was there when nobody else was there," or, "She's the only one who would have my back."

OK, I get it. But that was years ago, and I have constantly reminded him that I have his back now and she can step aside. But he says he's loyal to his friends, and he will never abandon her or any of them.

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As much as I love my fiance and want to be his wife, I can't accept this person in our lives. Abby, I really need your advice. Should I give his ring back, or should I keep quiet and let her continue to invade our relationship? — DEPRESSED FIANCEE IN MICHIGAN

DEAR FIANCEE: Try this. Tell your fiance that you would like the two of you to have premarital counseling to be sure you are on the same page regarding issues that "might" come up after your marriage. Couples usually have this kind of counseling to facilitate discussions about important subjects such as how their finances will be managed, whether they agree on how to raise children, etc. During one of those sessions, you should raise the subject of his old friend "who is constantly in the way" and let the counselor/mediator guide you through the discussion. And if you can't come to a mutual agreement, you should THEN return the ring.

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