Q: I have a niece in her 20s. She’s been living on her own for years, far from me and her parents.
She’s become engaged to a man her parents have met briefly. I have not met him. Her parents are very hostile to their wedding plans. I’d like to reach out to my niece in support, but I’m not sure how to go about it.
She moved recently and I don’t have her address. If I ask her parents for her address it will raise a red flag. If I contact her, I also risk her telling her parents, who will be mad at me.
A: If you’re not close enough to know how to get in touch with her, then I’m not sure you’re close enough to her to be a significant source of support for her right now.
Plus, countering her parents’ message is your only motive; you know nothing of this guy; and your niece might use your support as leverage against her parents, right? Thus the "red flag" of just getting contact information?
You can, of course, always, get in touch with your niece just to say hi and congratulations — assuming you can restrain yourself enough to stay in a listening role. For this, you can request your niece’s contact info without guilt or ulterior motive.
Fake advice questions raise real issues
Q: Do you think some of your questions are fake? I’ve gotten that vibe a couple times. I didn’t really mind, though, because even if I thought the question was fake I also felt it raised an issue that really could come up for people, and you answered it well.
A: Thank you. I think it’s impossible that I’ve done this for 20 years without publishing any fakes. I decided a long time ago not to worry about it — in part because I can’t prevent it, but also because, like you said, if it brings up an issue that’s relevant, then it doesn’t matter where the question came from.