DEAR ABBY:

My boyfriend, "Hal," and I have been dating for a year and a half, living together for six months. I'm afraid he feels emasculated. Because I make more money than he does, a lot of the responsibility for paying the bills lands on me. We try to split things down the middle, but recent complications with his job have meant it doesn't always work out that way.

I love Hal. I know he's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. I don't want money to be a dividing force, but I don't know what to say to make him feel better. This has been the elephant in the room for some time.

Hal helps out with cooking and housework, and because of that, I don't mind putting a little more into the bills. I do not want this to be an issue further down the road. Any advice is appreciated.

- Stuck on this in Virginia

DEAR STUCK: The problem with elephants in the room is, the longer they are ignored, the larger the herd becomes. It's amazing that two important subjects - sex and finances - are such touchy ones to discuss.

Choose a time when you and Hal are relaxed, and then bring up your concerns. Tell him how much you appreciate him in your life and the efforts he makes to make life easier for you, and that you don't want money issues to cause problems between the two of you. He may need to hear you say it. Then encourage him to express his feelings the way you have.

Dine and dash

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were invited by some friends to meet for dinner. We arrived first; they showed up several minutes later. During the meal, the wife said, "I always scan the restaurant to see if there's anyone else here I know."

After we finished dinner and the checks were paid, the couple got up and left the table. We didn't know where they had gone. I put my coat on and we were leaving, when the wife, who was now sitting down at another table with another couple, stopped us to introduce us to them.

I think they were terribly rude. I feel they should have waited and walked out with us, saying hello as they passed the table of their other friends.

This isn't the first time she has done this. Is there a way to politely tell her how rude it is? My husband still wants to meet them for meals, but I am really struggling with it.

- Ditched diner in South Carolina

DEAR DITCHED: If your dinner companion had perfect manners, rather than disappear after the check was paid, she would have said, "I see the Joneses over there. We want to go over and say hello, so come with us or go on ahead." Because you have dined together before, you know this is her pattern. I do not think it is anything to ruin a friendship over.