Dear Abby: My sweet boyfriend gets naughty when a certain topic comes up

DEAR ABBY: My significant other is a super nice guy, who everyone likes and gets along with – until the topics of religion, spirituality and the afterlife come up. Any discussion of these topics (whether it involves it or not) is injected with his sarcasm, hostility and harsh criticism.

He refuses to be quiet during discussions and ends up bullying people, which leaves everyone feeling judged and negative. I tried to tell him that his attacks are unnecessary, importunate, and as closed-minded and naive as the arguments advanced by those who unconditionally follow any set of teachings.

His diatribes are long, monotonous, offensive and always end with “show me proof”, which is almost impossible. He considers this a “victory”, which reinforces his behavior. We’ve had this discussion several times, and I can’t get over it. I have a strong belief system, but I believe everyone has their own process for achieving spirituality. That’s why I can accept him as he is, and I’m happy to train with him privately.

How can I express how inappropriate and disrespectful his behavior is when he hijacks a discussion with his inappropriate arguments and negativity? — SPARRING PARTNER IN MICHIGAN

DEAR PARTNER: What a pity, not to mention rude and obnoxious, that your partner can’t control their impulse to hijack other people’s conversations on these topics. His urge to be the center of attention seems to be bottomless. I doubt you could say anything to him that would turn him into someone capable of civil conversation. If you haven’t already, your boorish friend will end up being as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. It can ultimately affect your own social life – so be prepared.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have had the same disagreement for almost 20 years since we were married. He likes his family (two to five people) to stay overnight with us for three to four days each year. I am an introvert. I need time alone, and I’d rather they stayed at a motel. He insists it would be “inhospitable” even if we still spent 10 or 11 hours a day with them.

I don’t like waking up with others, family or not. He grew up in a large family, unlike me. He actually threatened me with a divorce (I don’t know if he was serious or if it was just a scare tactic, but it hurt) if I was going to get him to tell his family that they wouldn’t couldn’t stay here. I am 58 years old. I haven’t worked for eight years and I don’t have any skills. He knows it, so I feel like I have no choice but to agree.

He says I am being selfish since it is only once a year. I know I’m lucky. He provides us well financially and is a wonderful husband barring that hurdle, so I know I should just be okay. But how can I overcome my anxiety about it? —DREADING IN TEXAS

DEAR DREADING: The most effective way to deal with an anxiety problem is to talk about it with a licensed psychotherapist. Because your husband provides you well financially, you can afford to consult one. If you do, it can help you learn to take advantage of times of solitude to recharge while your loved ones are away.

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

Good advice for everyone – from teenagers to the elderly – can be found in “The anger in all of us and how to deal with it”. To order, send your name and mailing address, along with a check or money order for $8 (US funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, PO Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling charges are included in the price.)

Jessica C. Bell