My wife is a wonderful woman who did a great job of rearing our large family, but our house was often too cluttered to suit my mother who, in those years, was judgmental and critical of my wife.

Years later, things have changed. My father passed away, the kids are grown and gone, and my mother is growing more lonely and needy every day. She now wants to spend time with us, but because she never developed a close friendship with my wife, my wife tolerates her but doesn't welcome her.

I love them both, but I'm becoming frustrated having to constantly choose and juggle schedules so I can keep Mom's feelings from getting hurt. Abby, please tell mothers-in-law to build bridges while they can. Someday it may be too late. But any advice for me?

- Spread Thin in Oklahoma

DEAR SPREAD THIN: Your cautionary tale deserves space in my column. When your wife joined the family, instead of building bridges, your mother dynamited them. It's not surprising your wife feels the way she does at the prospect of spending time with her mother-in-law. Of course, while some degree of compromise is necessary, your mother should also be encouraged to find activities and contemporaries whose company she can enjoy without expecting you to entertain her. And the person to do that is you.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a woman in my mid-40s. Over the years I have diligently exercised, eaten right and taken good care of my skin. I keep my hairstyle and clothing up-to-date.

I am constantly taken to be much younger than I am. While some of my peers may be jealous of this "problem," I find it extremely annoying. It's especially bothersome in a business situation when someone my age or slightly older treats me as though he/she could be my parent.

I am not inclined to broadcast my age. Is there a professional way to deal with their condescending attitude?

- Looks Younger, but Isn't

DEAR LOOKS YOUNGER: Yes. First, take the chip off your shoulder. Then recognize that your colleagues may not be condescending; they may be trying to be helpful. Accept the suggestions they offer without becoming defensive. The more of themselves these "mentors" invest in you, the happier they'll be about your successes.

DEAR ABBY: My husband of almost a year and I have discovered a great technique to avoid screaming at each other in an argument. When we get aggravated with each other, one of us goes to the refrigerator, takes out one of our favorite candy bars (we keep a supply in there) and we split it. By the time we're done eating the candy, we can calmly discuss our disagreement.

This helps because we literally take a break from the situation and share a mutual joy. It works because we both love chocolate so much. We wanted to share this solution with your readers.

- Sweet Tooth in Angleton, Texas

DEAR SWEET TOOTH: Ingenious. The two of you have discovered yet another reason why chocolate is good for the heart. I hope as time goes by you'll sustain a high level of compatibility because otherwise you're going to weigh a ton.

Good advice for everyone - teens to seniors - is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby - Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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.