Talk with girlfriend about what place exes will have in your life
Q: I am about to get engaged, and my close friends and family say I must part with some "baggage" before I do. They say I must stop remaining in touch with some of my friends because I was involved with them at various times. Some were one-night stands whom I stayed in contact with. Some were friends before we became involved, and we remained friends after. Others were co-workers whom people tried to fix me up with, but there wasn't necessarily a spark. Some I remain in touch with because I became really good friends with their families. What is the proper way to handle this situation? My betrothed does not currently know about these involvements.
A: Rough idea — if all these "involvements" were to gather in one place, would they fill a movie theater, NHL rink or football stadium?
Not that it matters. There is a standard of decency here that's far less complex than your current personal entanglements: You keep the innocent friendships by introducing these friends to your girlfriend; you end the friendship with anyone you don't want your girlfriend to meet; and you impose a self-restraining order on all unfinished business.
I say this assuming, silly me, that you and your girlfriend at least agree in principle on where exes fit in. If you haven't had that talk yet, have it now.
Butting in has its hazards, but there are ways to test the water
Q: Is it ever appropriate to offer un-asked-for advice in nonlife-threatening situations?
My brother recently discovered he has a 16-year-old daughter. Now that the bloom is off the first meetings, he's starting to deal with normal (in my opinion) teenage drama. He's hurt that she never asks about him or his wife, and that when they're together, she only wants to text her friends.
He hasn't asked for my opinion, but I was 16 once, and I am a mom, so I have a pretty good idea of what he's facing. Do I wait, or try to slip advice into regular conversations?
Sister & Aunt
A: Butting in has earned every bit of its bad reputation; it's condescending, insulting, fraught with ulterior motives and, even in its mildest form, a real conversation-killer. Unless the person saying it has a blistering wit, who wants to hear anything that follows "Y'know what you should do … "?
Consequently, there's a whole cohort of polite, well-meaning, buttinsk-o-phobic people who won't approach anyone else's business without a hazmat suit and barbecue tongs.
This is your brother, he's hurting and sharing that with you. It's okay to take part in the conversation. "I dunno … seems like normal teenage stuff — what do you think?"
If even that feels intrusive — say, your brother is thin-skinned or you tend to be meddlesome or your family is timid by training — then by all means (to borrow from The Big Chill) be supportive and shut up. But it also can't hurt to ask: "I have an opinion here — want it, or no?"
There's always a chance you'll give offense regardless. But invite people to choose their preferred support and they're often grateful for the chance.