Concern for niece is nice, but don't be a busybody
Q: My niece, who I adore, has been accepted to a prestigious design school. Her mom is ecstatic, and so am I. I helped her prepare a portfolio, take the SATs and apply to schools. Tuition will cost well over $100,000. Since I am a practical person, who is still paying loans 15 years after graduating, I have advised her to consider studying in state.
Her mom called me enraged that I would "discourage her daughter from pursuing her dreams." When I pointed out that it's not realistic to take on that kind of debt, she said, "We are more than capable" of paying for college and that she would appreciate if I kept my ideas to myself.
I just don't want to see my niece burdened down with debt. No one explained debt to me at that age. Am I out of line?
A: Way. Even if the family can't pay the tab, your being right doesn't make it okay to keep pressing your point after you've been told your opinion isn't welcome. Because of your close relationship, you had a right to warn your niece about debt. Once. When that raised hackles, the right thing to do was apologize — and thereafter bite your tongue.
Friend's bad breakup is no time to think of revenge
Q: I am in high school. My best friend was dating someone we both thought was a really nice girl. On their five-month anniversary, he gave her jewelry. The next day, she said she didn't feel the same, wanted some space, and became very nasty.
I just found out that she never stopped talking to her ex-boyfriend while she was seeing my friend. My friend seems to be getting over the heartbreak, but I feel like he was made a fool of. I don't know if I should tell him, let it go or get even with her in some way.
A: It's great that you care about your friend, but it's tough to overstate how many bad moves can be traced to that motivation.
Revenge, for one. Everybody who tries it looks petty and juvenile. Also, your information about the ex is incomplete: Were they crossing lines, or just friends? Did the ex cause the breakup, or was he irrelevant? Did her nastiness expose her as a bad person, or just bad at tough conversations?
Your friend had a good thing, until he didn't anymore; he seems to be accepting that. Nothing wrong with your accepting it, too.
Habitual questioner is actually an emotional abuser
Q: What do you do when somebody habitually questions your decisions about small things? Over time, it seems like it wears down my ability to trust my own judgment and to stand up to this person about larger things.
A: You just gave a nice, capsule description of how abusers control victims. Here's the capsule remedy: (1) Recognize the behavior when it happens. (2) Call the perpetrator on it. (3) Gauge whether s/he's willing to recognize and remedy the behavior. (4) If yes, give things a chance while taking care not to get sucked back in; if no, put yourself out of this person's emotional reach. Counseling can help, especially with learning to avoid this trap.