DEAR ABBY: My grandmother is 75 years old and very unpleasant to be around. She has made many hurtful remarks in the past, which have led some family members to shut her out.

When I talk with my grandmother, she's nothing but pleasant with me, but she's often angry and tearful about other members of the family.

She feels her children and grandchildren should respect her as the matriarch of the family and include her in all family get-togethers. (My family tells me they have stopped inviting her to many functions because she's such a troublemaker.)

I'm concerned about my grandmother and am beginning to think that my family should overlook her unpleasant behavior and occasional snide remarks.

- Troubled in Minnesota

DEAR TROUBLED: Your grandmother appears to be reaping what she has sown. Verbal abuse often leaves scars on those at whom it is aimed, and no one can be blamed for wanting distance from a person who is deliberately hurtful.

Respect is something that has to be earned. Your parents and siblings "respect" your grandmother from a distance because they have learned it's the only safe way to do so.

DEAR ABBY: Please allow me to share a dating technique with your readers that has saved me a lot of relationship headaches. I call it "the 90-day rule."

Whenever I start dating someone, I try to see them at least once a week for 90 days and refrain from sexual intimacy during that time. That way, if there are any character flaws, I find out within the first 90 days.

Before you can love someone, especially physically, you must learn who that person really is.

- Clearheaded in Clearwater, Fla.

DEAR CLEARHEADED: Your 90-day rule makes a lot of sense. I have heard from many readers who went too far too fast. I warn them that physical attraction should not be confused with love, because what they're really describing is infatuation.