DEAR ABBY: My wife thinks I have a problem because I do not have a close relationship with my mother. We go for weeks without talking or seeing each other, and it doesn't bother me. Since I was about 13, my parents were hardly ever around. My mom was a workaholic, and my dad was an alcoholic, so I became totally self-sufficient.




Now I am 21, and I'm not bothered that I have little contact with my mother. I acknowledge that she gave me life, but that's where it ends. I would like to know your thoughts about all this.




"" NO REGRETS, SAN ANGELO, TEXAS




DEAR NO REGRETS: It's sad that at such an important time in your life you had no parents to talk to. But this wasn't your mother's fault. With an alcoholic husband &

who I'm guessing had trouble with employment &

and a son to provide for, it's not surprising that she became a "workaholic." It may have been a necessity.




I would be curious to know what kind of relationship you have with your father. While it's regrettable that you have so little communication with your mother, if this has been the pattern that was set since you were 13, it is also understandable. Your wife means well, but she should not "stir the pot." DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have no children but have had two dogs since we became a couple. This year, our two 13-year-old Dalmatians passed away within four months of each other. We are grieving but realize our "children" are in a better, pain-free place.




Our vets and physical therapists played an extremely active role during their lives and after their passing. Although it's their "job," what is the appropriate way to acknowledge the love and extra efforts they put into caring for our dogs? (One vet even gave me her cell number.)




"" SORROWFUL IN RENO, NEV.




DEAR SORROWFUL: You could make a donation in their honor to an animal-related cause. However, no tangible item you could give them would mean as much as a personal letter thanking them for their caring, support and professionalism during this difficult time. It's something that could be read and re-read over the years, or even framed. And I'm sure either gesture would be appreciated.




DEAR ABBY: I am 26 and lived with "Mackie" for three years. Although we were not legally married, I referred to him as "my husband."




We have now split up. I refer to this as "the divorce," and the time we were together as "when we were married." My conservative mother seems to understand why I do this. However, others choose to correct me &

rather rudely.




My question is, what would you call this? And what do I say to those who feel the need to tell me how I should attribute an event in my life?




"" SINGLE NOW, IN MISSISSIPPI




DEAR SINGLE NOW: As much as you loved "Mackie" and "felt" married while you were together, the reality is that you were not legally married. I agree that when couples end their relationships &

married or not &

it is a divorce in the emotional sense. And my Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, defines divorce as "any complete separation or disunion." So you're half-right. Tell them that the divorce was as painful as if you'd had a marriage license, and let it go at that.




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.