Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I recently married "Matt," the man of my dreams. We want to have children someday. Although I love Matt, I do not love the other men in his family — specifically his father and his brothers. I'm worried about the negative influence they may have on our children.

These people swear and make racist comments and jokes in front of their children. Matt has spoken to them about it in front of me, but it hasn't stopped them or altered the way they act.

I'm an adult. I understand that these people haven't had the same educational opportunities and positive parental guidance that I was fortunate enough to have, but I worry about the influence they may have on our children. I don't want to ruin my husband's relationship with his family, but if they won't cut out the comments, I don't see how I can allow them to be a part of our children's lives. Please help.

— DISTRESSED NEW WIFE IN VERMONT

DEAR NEW WIFE: I don't know how tied into this family your husband is, but it may not be possible to totally separate your children from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — unless you plan to move across the country. Obviously, you married the "pick of the litter."

Please keep in mind that every family has its own standards of what is acceptable and what isn't, and yours will be no exception. You will educate your children to a higher level, and reinforce the qualities you and your husband feel are important not only by modeling good behavior for them and praising them when they emulate it, but also by pointing out what is unacceptable and telling them why. It's a more effective way to teach children their values rather than isolating them.

DEAR ABBY: A dear friend, "Claudia," is flying across the state to stay with me and my fiance for a long weekend. She asked if she could borrow my vehicle to visit a couple of her relatives, and I agreed. However, I have since learned that Claudia plans to visit more relatives during that weekend than the two she mentioned. I am now hesitant about loaning her my car.

The relatives she plans to visit don't live close by. They live an hour away from us. Claudia has offered to pay for the gas, but it's the wear and tear on my car that worries me. It's an older model.

Would it be unreasonable for me to tell her that she needs to rent a vehicle if she plans on visiting so many relatives so far away? Also, am I wrong in thinking that if you say you are coming to visit a friend, you should spend the majority of your time with her, and not running around visiting everyone else?

— HESITANT HOSTESS IN IDAHO

DEAR HESITANT HOSTESS: No, you're not wrong. Aside from the wear and tear on your car, what you're really objecting to is being used as a jumping-off place while Claudia traipses around. By all means tell her to rent a vehicle during her visit. Before agreeing to loan your car, you should have checked your insurance policy. It's possible that if some kind of mishap occurred while she was at the wheel, you would not be covered.

DEAR ABBY: I recently lost my wife to a long illness. When she could no longer work, I tried to give her the best quality of life I could. It took a toll. I worked long hours to give her everything she needed. The medical bills were astronomical. All she ever wanted was me.

I was always the macho type, and "I love you" was always hard for me to say. (I'm a real tough guy.) Well, this tough guy would give anything for one more chance to say it.

She died so suddenly, it was like it wasn't real. For the first couple of weeks I threw myself into work and thought I could handle it. When the death certificate arrived in the mail, that's when I fell apart.

I feel guilty because I was gone so much. I miss her terribly. Sometimes the loneliness is so bad it feels like someone is standing on my chest.

Abby, I would like to remind all the other macho guys out there that TIME is something you only get so much of. It is precious, but unfortunately, limited. I realized, too late, that it's not enough that my wife "knew" I loved her. I should have told her more often. I know now that "I wish I would have," "I know I should have," and "If I had just one more chance" are the worst things in the world to hear yourself say when it is already too late.

PLEASE tell your spouse you love her or him. You never know if the last time you say it might be the last time you get the chance.

— TOO LATE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR TOO LATE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the death of your wife. Your letter makes clear the depth of the loss you are feeling. Although true lovers never get enough of each other, I am sure she understood the strain you were under and that you loved her.

Readers, this gentleman's letter carries with it an important message. "I love you" is the sweetest music a person can hear. Bouquets of flowers smell the sweetest when they are in the hands of the recipient, not stacked by her (or his) casket. And praise is most appreciated when it can be heard by the person who has earned it, not when it's recited in a eulogy after he or she has passed. So speak up now, before it truly is too late.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.