Thursday, April 15, 2010

In-laws Make Themselves at Home

Stuck in the Southwest writes: My in-laws (whom I love dearly) moved to another state after retirement, and when they come to visit they always stay with us. They own a house next door that is occupied by their daughter, and they also have another child living nearby.
How can I politely suggest that they stay in their own house with their daughter or with the other child? Both have the space to accommodate them. I work very early morning hours and don't want to disturb them, but they pretty much take over our house when they are here. I don't know if the other children offer them a place to stay or not, but I'm tired of having them here every time they visit. -- STUCK IN THE SOUTHWEST

Dear Stuck,

What does your spouse say about it? I would think this is something your spouse should discuss with your in-laws rather than you doing so. Given that the sister of your spouse lives right next door I imagine you both have frequent contact with her. Why not ask her to host this next time and ask the other sibling to do it the time after. It seems fair that taking turns hosting is the way to approach these visits. Once the decision is made to take turns, this can be expressed to your in-laws in a way that everyone wants their equal share of having them stay with them. Doing it this way will make sure your in-laws don't feel they are unwanted by you.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Concerned for the Children

Deeply Concerned in Pennsylvania writes: My sister "Carole's" husband died a year ago, and her oldest daughter passed away four months later. Carole now has her daughter's two oldest children, ages 10 and 14.
Carole has been going out with men she meets on the Internet, drinking and partying on weekends and neglecting the kids. The 10-year-old had been receiving psychological help since before her mom died and was on medication, but Carole has dropped all of this help for the child. The girl had been molested by a relative years ago, and now with her mother gone, she's not moving forward in school or in life.
Some of us are willing to take the children from her. She seems not to care what happens to them. She devotes all her attention to the next guy she can be with. She has left the kids alone all night when she was spending the night with men. I'm not supposed to know this, but my adult niece found out from the kids. What can our family do to bring Carole back to earth and help these kids? -- DEEPLY CONCERNED IN PENNSYLVANIA

Dear Deeply Concerned (and you have every right to be),
It sounds like Carole has been through a lot in the past year. She lost her partner and she endured the greatest tragedy for any parent, the death of a child. I am a huge advocate of counseling and it sounds like Carole, along with the children, would benefit from this. However, this is something someone has to choose to do and since she dropped counseling for the 10-year old, she probably isn't ready to seek that kind of help for herself, but there's no harm in asking. Have you tried talking to Carole? I think the best thing you could possibly do is to be a support for Carole and for the kids. If you could be Carole's friend and sister then you could non-invasively suggest to take the kids on nights that Carole has dates or for a more extended period and Carole will not be threatened by your interception. Worse case scenario would be to get CPS involved. You know more than I do but my instincts are telling me that Carole is hurt and doesn't know how to deal with it. Being a friend and a support could allow for her to open up to you which could make a world of difference for all involved. But in the end, the children are the most important concern here and deserve to be in a safe and comforting environment.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uncomfortable Nudity

Older Sister in McAllen, Texas writes: My brother is 9 and still walks around naked. I have asked "Josh" repeatedly to put on some clothes, but he blows me off and flaunts himself around the house.
My mother is no help. When I ask her to talk to him, she laughs and says, "Boys will be boys." I'm 13 and it is starting to freak me out. Am I being paranoid, or am I right to want him to put on a pair of boxers or something? -- OLDER SISTER IN MCALLEN, TEXAS

Dear Older Sister,

I think your social cues are right on. Is your brother the "baby" of the family? As a studying psychologist I find that birth order plays a huge role into the roles members of a family play. Your brother may be doing this act as a way to hold on to his youth and dismiss "growing up" or he may simply be doing it because he knows it bugs you (you know how younger siblings can be). Of course, your mother is playing a large part in your brothers actions currently. Children learn about social norms primarily from their parents. Because your mother condones his actions, there are no consequences. There is also a cultural aspect to this topic. In some cultures nudity is completely accepted and thought nothing of, all the way through adulthood. Given that you live in Texas, America, your instincts are compliant with your culture's acceptable norms. Here comes the advice for you. As difficult as it is, stop making a big deal out of it. When children learn they can acquire a given reaction which they find pleasurable, they will continue to do it. Your brother gets a kick out of driving you crazy. Go about life as usual without accommodating for your brother's actions. If he doesn't put a stop to his behavior on his own, your mother eventually will. All it will take is one embarrassing moment for him or for her and the problem will be addressed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cutting Ties

Sad in Ohio writes: I'm a 58-year-old woman who has been married 40 years. I married at 18, put my husband through school and raised three children.
We have now been separated five years, after I found out that my husband had had numerous affairs. The last one lasted three years and I had no idea. During his last affair, he had the woman in our home and told her personal things about me. He lied and told her we were getting a divorce.
We have not divorced. Financially it would be hard. I can't seem to get over the pain and hurt. He still calls to see if I am OK. I continually visualize him with the other women. Thirty-five years is a long time, and he's the only man I have ever known.
I want to get over him, but it's hard. I now work full-time. My husband constantly sought women who admired his power and status in the community. I don't think I can ever get over his hurting me so. I tried counseling. It didn't work. He continues to call, which keeps me hanging. Should I break all ties? Is that what's holding me back? -- SAD IN OHIO

Dear Sad,
I find that many times with situations like this the person knows deep down what they need to do, they just need a little reassurance. You have told me that his calls "keep you hanging" and then asked if you should break all ties? The answer is, yes. But, you already knew that. I think you are completely correct about your husband keeping you close by continuing contact. The only way you will be free mentally, physically, and spiritually is to release yourself and be free from his influence. If you can find it in yourself to make this change I think you will start to see some healthy and positive differences in your life begin to occur.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stuck in a Rut

Troubled in Virgina writes: I am at my wits' end and feel my life is over. I just want to get my life back the way it was 10 years ago. In the past eight years I have lost two jobs. I am currently unemployed and in financial ruin. I see no way out. Every job I apply for wants to do a credit check, so there goes any good job I might have. I have no resources for a counselor since I have no health insurance and nobody for a sounding board. Please help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel virtually alone. -- TROUBLED IN VIRGINIA

Dear Troubled,

You're not alone! So many people are experiencing similar hopelessness as you in this harsh economic time. I truly believe that the key to getting through any difficult time or situation is to do the one thing you have complete power over at all times...think positively! That may seem like useless advice to you right now especially in your troubled state but if you can find the faith and effort to devote yourself to a life of positive thinking, you can have your life exactly how you want it. The laws of attraction are very simple. The "universe", "God", some "Higher Power", whatever you choose to call it, listens to the vibrations and thoughts you create and then graciously delivers exactly what you have presented. Basically, you get back that which you put out. Is it safe to assume that in your situation you spend a great deal of time worrying and focusing on the negative aspects of your life? Doing so only makes matters worse. If you can consciously choose to change this lifestyle, you will see positive changes begin to occur in your life. Here are a few specific things I think might help you. Watch the movie "The Secret", there is a book also if you would prefer this route. Create a "Vision Board"; get a bulletin board and cover it with pictures, words, statements, etc. of your aspirations by clipping them out of magazines, drawing them or writing them yourself. Put the board on a wall where you will see it everyday to remind yourself of the direction you are choosing for your life. You must continue to be proactive. Manifesting a postive life can only be occurred by an active role by you. Lastly, stick with it! Don't ever give up!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Proper Tipping Behavior

Properly Served In New Hampshire writes: My wife and I were out to dinner with two other couples who are also good friends. We all enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine during our meal.
When the check came, we split it three ways. However, one of the other couples insisted that we should tip only on the food portion of the bill. I said we should tip on the entire bill, including the cost of the wine. Who was correct? -- PROPERLY SERVED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Dear Properly Served,
I'm a bit confused. Was the check split three ways with the bottle of wine being split evenly between the three bills? Tip should definitely be warranted on the total amount of the bill. Alcohol makes the most money for those in the serving industry because it is so pricey. Subtracting this from the bill before adding a tip, would in a word, be a "gyp" (please excuse the rhyme; I couldn't resist).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Old Man Flirts With Young Woman in Front of Wife

Old Fool's Wife in Alabama writes: My husband, "Roger" -- 64 and retired -- has a crush on a 25-year-old woman who lives in our small community and who runs a dress shop I frequent. Roger is usually quiet and reserved, but when he sees "Patti," he utters loud cries and runs to her side. He examines every detail of her clothing, makeup, etc., and takes her hand and compliments her on her soft skin, her ring or the color of her nail polish.
From the expression on her face and the looks she exchanges with the other women in the shop, it's clear she considers him a pest.
I have spoken up and said, "Patti must have a grandfather your age," or, "There's no fool like an old fool," but Roger ignores it. My concern is that he's making a fool of himself in public and, by extension, me. I'm so embarrassed, I can no longer walk into my favorite dress shop. Patti is popular. She has many dates and is not interested in Roger. I hate to be pitied by others. What can I do to stop this? -- OLD FOOL'S WIFE IN ALABAMA

Dear Old Fool's Wife,

Not only are your husband's actions inappropriate, they're disrespectful to you and Patti. It appears to me that Roger is feeling his age and attempting to boost his ego by gaining the attention of an attractive, much younger woman. Though this is common, I'm sure you've heard of "dirty old men", it most certainly can be a problem. If talking to Roger will do no good, avoid telling him when you plan to go to the dress shop so that he has no excuse to tag along. If Roger is going to the shop without you, it is up to Patti to say something to him. You could always talk to her about it so that she knows you support her in telling Roger that his actions are inappropriate and embarrassing. Good luck!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When Should My Parents Meet Your Parents?

It's Only Dinner writes: I've been dating "Amanda" for eight months and everything is going great. I've met her parents, and she has met mine. Two days ago, I mentioned that we should plan a dinner with both sets of parents since they have not met yet. Amanda told me that our parents shouldn't meet until we move into together or are engaged. I felt offended. When do you think is the right time for our parents to meet? -- IT'S ONLY DINNER!

Dear Only Dinner,

It sounds to me like Amanda is looking for more of a commitment from you or at least trying to figure out where you stand. To be frank, I don't think the dinner with parents is the real issue here at all. Amanda seems to be ready to take your relationship to the next level and she is probing for information from you. If you can stomach it, I would approach this head-on by asking her directly if she wants to talk about your relationship and where it is going. It may be that she's afraid of what you will say and does not know how to approach the topic. Take some time to figure out your responses to this before beginning the conversation. Amanda feeling this way is not uncommon given the length of your dating period. However, entertaining the idea that I am completely off base here, to answer your question, I'm surprised your parents haven't already met. The fact that it was your idea to have the dinner should show Amanda that you are serious about her, your relationship, and the family that comes with it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bitter in the Northeast writes: I'm a career woman, working for a family-owned business. Last year was difficult because there have been a number of layoffs and no raises. When I had my annual review, I received an outstanding evaluation but was again told no raise would be forthcoming because business is slow.
I could understand this because of the current economy if the owners of the company weren't taking expensive vacations and buying new luxury cars.
I have a hard time accepting there's no money for raises when they spend so extravagantly. I understand it's not my business how they spend their money, but it's difficult to swallow when I feel so taken advantage of. I'm not the only one here feeling the way I do, and it's beginning to create a hostile environment. Am I wrong to feel this way? -- BITTER IN THE NORTHEAST

Dear Bitter,

Your frustration is justified along with the others who are feeling this way at your workplace. I believe that unreasonable priorities are a major problem in this country which is evidenced by the executives at your workplace. However, jobs are hard to come by right now so I would advise you not to make an uproar about this issue. Focus your energy on doing your job and being indispensable to the company. That way if the executives have to start making layoffs to support their lavish lifestyles, you won't be first on their list.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dating Can Be Intimidating

TENTATIVE TOM IN TAMPA writes: I am newly single after a 30-year marriage. Would you please explain to me the protocol regarding intimacy? After how many dates is it appropriate to engage in intimacy? And afterward, should the man call the woman or the woman call the man? How long should one wait before calling? I'm afraid if I call too soon I'll appear needy, and if I wait too long to call I'll appear to be a player. -- TENTATIVE TOM IN TAMPA

Dear Tentative,

Thirty years is a long time to be out of the dating scene but you can be comforted that not a lot has changed. There is no dating "Bible", if you will, because it is something that is done based on instinct. It's understandable that you're nervous but you already have everything you need to get back in the game. When you take a lady out, all the gentlemanly things to do stand, open her door, pay for dinner, and walk her to her front door at the end of the night. Everything else while on the date will depend on the chemistry between you. Trust your feelings and act on them. If she reciprocates, that opens up doors for getting closer. Be sensitive to her vibes; if she isn't into you, you'll know it and visa versa. If she doesn't want to be intimate, she'll tell you. As far as how long to wait before real about it. If you want to call, then call. Be true to yourself at all times and she won't ever consider you a "Player". One last thing, be confident. Even if you aren't, fake it until you are. Confidence above everything else is very attractive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Friendship in Jeopardy

Deeply Hurt In Arizona writes: I return to my hometown at least twice a year to visit my large extended family. When I do, I have tried to make time for my oldest friend, "Judith", whom I have known since kindergarten. In the past we have gotten together for a few hours here and there -- for dinner, coffee or whatever. She's great company and we have fun together. I'd like to spend more time with Judith, but Mom and Dad are close to 90 and there are many other relatives on my and my husband's side to see, which takes up most of our time. Years ago, we tried to see all our friends, but more recently we have limited it to Judith and her husband and occasionally include a mutual friend. Judith just e-mailed me telling me to "have a nice life" because if we were "truly" friends, I'd make more time with her. She won't reply to my e-mails or return my calls. I respect her feelings, but feel pressured by the time constraints of our brief visits home. Judith has no children, a single brother and a married brother with whom she recently reunited. I feel like I have committed some kind of crime. I think if she were a true friend, she'd understand my predicament. Please help. -- DEEPLY HURT IN ARIZONA

Dear Deeply Hurt,
I feel like there are pieces missing from your story. However, given that you have obviously written to Judith and tried calling her to explain your point of view, she should definitely be more understanding. If she would like time with you, she should make the trip to you and your husband's home for a visit. A "true" friendship, as Judith so eloquently referred to in her email to you, is a two way street. Granted, you are not going to your hometown mainly to see Judith. If this is her argument, you could offer to pay for half of her travel costs for her trip to see you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Inappropriate Dinner Conversation

FRUSTRATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE writes: Last night, I attended an elegant dinner party at the home of a friend. She served a delicious meal on a table set with crystal, bone china, silver and a low centerpiece of fresh flowers. Everything was perfection -- with one exception. As soon as we were seated, our hostess's elderly Aunt "Ethel" began talking about her health, with graphic details of every symptom, every allergy and every pain she had ever endured.
Other guests tried changing the subject several times, but Aunt Ethel evidently believed she was being entertaining. Among those at the table were a lawyer, a teacher and a friend who had recently returned from living several years in Africa. Each had more to contribute in the way of conversation. But not one got the opportunity to speak more than a few words before Aunt Ethel was reminded of yet another ailment she "knew" we'd find interesting.
How does one handle an awkward situation like this? In spite of her age, the woman is essentially in good health and ours is a small town. She'll probably be present at many more dinners. -- FRUSTRATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Dear Frustrated,

Though a bit unsettling to the digestion, I don't think it's your place to say something to Aunt Ethel. If you're close friends with the hostess you could try discussing it with her so she could talk to her aunt for future dinner events. As the hostess and relative of the "offender" it should be up to her to mediate the conversation. If this is not an option, you can always opt not to go when you know Aunt Ethel will be attending. If enough people do this, Aunt Ethel may get the hint.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stuck in the middle

In The Middle writes: "Oscar" and I have been married for three years. We have had many ups and downs and a few near-separations, but we're now on a better path and working hard on our relationship.
Because my friends have seen the rocky times Oscar and I have been through, they are not as nice to him as I'd like. In particular, this applies to my best friend, "Tish," and her husband.
I have tried many times to get us together on double dates, but they always refuse. They socialize with other couples, but refuse to associate with Oscar and me beyond birthday and holiday celebrations.
I'd love to have my friends and my husband all together for other social functions. What can I do, if anything? -- IN THE MIDDLE IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Dear In the Middle,

I understand your dilemma. On one hand, your friend wants better for you because she has seen Oscar treat you poorly. However, as your friend, she should support you in your choice of mate despite her own opinion. I would suggest not venting to Tish when you and Oscar have difficulties. Though rough times are inevitable between couples, it can do more damage than good in this situation for you to tell Tish about them. Keep things light and airy with Tish. Avoid talking about Oscar with her unless she asks and then keep it positive and brief. You can continue to invite Tish and her husband to social events with Oscar and you but don't put any pressure on them to come. Hopefully in time, Tish and her husband will decide to give it another try and seeing how happy you and Oscar are together they can feel comfortable building a "couple's" friendship.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Desserted in Tennessee

I work in an office where folks sometimes bring in birthday cakes, desserts and other goodies to share. "Dolores" is always the first in line, and helps herself to a large portion of the treats and says she's taking some home for her family.
Last week, someone brought in an exotic dessert and I got out the dessert-sized paper plates. Dolores took out two regular-sized paper plates and cut off a quarter of the entire dessert! No one could believe it, but we didn't know what to say or do. One time, she actually cut a huge portion of someone's birthday cake to take home before the "birthday boy" even got a slice. This woman is not poor. What do you recommend? -- "DESSERTED" IN TENNESSEE

I think either Delores doesn't realize that her actions are socially unacceptable or she just plain out doesn't care. I take the side that communication is key with any kind of dispute. However, in a work environment confrontation can be uncomfortable and cause rifts between co-workers. If you don't feel it is your place to talk to Delores directly about her "hoarding", I would take the more passive-aggressive stance and have the administrative assistant/secretary send out a general email to all employees about food and break-room etiquette. It can be written as a reminder to general clean up guidelines along with taking single servings of treats brought into the office to make sure everyone has a chance to get a helping. An addition of, "whatever food is left over at the end of the day is free game for taking home is a respectable action", would give Delores the "go ahead" to take some home after everyone has had an opportunity to their fair share.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There's a first for everything

Because it will take some time for my blog to get going, I've decided to "borrow" questions from Dear Abby and answer with my own insight. I am refraining from reading Abby's response as I do not want what she says to interfere with my own opinion.


Last week I suggested to a co-worker, "Zack," that I treat him to a beer after work. Before our pints arrived, he disappeared to a corner of the pub to text on his phone, and 10 minutes later his girlfriend showed up. Her being there obligated me to buy her a drink, and it derailed the work-related discussion I had initially had in mind.
The following Monday, I mentioned to Zack that he should have asked me first if it was OK to bring someone else. He was none too pleased to hear that I thought his behavior was rude. How far off base was I?

Dear Wondering,

I don't think you were off base in feeling his actions were off putting. It seems to me that Zach felt your intentions may have been beyond work-related which made him feel uncomfortable, hence the invitation of his romantic relationship to the event. Did you communicate to him why you wanted to buy him a drink? Though buying someone a drink can definitely be an innocent act, it for the most part is viewed as suggestive if for no other reason than you are offering a one-on-one with alcohol involved. With that said, if Zach was thinking along these lines it was wrong of him to accept the offer given that he is involved romantically with someone else. If Zach was not viewing your offer as an opportunity to connect outside of the workplace, it was indeed off putting for him to invite someone else along, especially someone not related to work, without first discussing it with you. Nonetheless, I do not feel that you were obligated in any way to buy his girlfriend a drink when she arrived.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's the point?

The reason for this blog is to offer professional advice to anyone who may benefit from it. I am currently earning my Master's degree in professional counseling and am faced with challenging issues through a variety of people whom I see for counseling. I truly believe that I am here to help others and I find a great deal of satisfaction doing so. This blog will offer me the opportunity to extend my knowledge and experience working with others with problems ranging from the everyday mundane to the out of this world complicated. I do not promise to have the right answers to everything nor do I commit to never offending anyone, though I will do my best not to. I view this blog as a win-win situation because I can offer my education and empathy to all of you to hopefully help you in finding resolutions to your problems and for me I can benefit from extending my work with people and the joy it gives me to offer my help.

So, without further adieu...please ask away.