Friday, November 8, 2013

Tell On a Cheater?

Dear Jocelyn,
I know a guy friend who has cheated on his spouse. They have since cut ties, but I do not think his spouse knows what happen and I feel awkward being around them now. The friend does not know I know about them being unfaithful. I now question my own relationship with the friend since that behavior does not go along with my own morals or ideals of a happy marriage. Part of me wants to tell the spouse what happened, but I am afraid of the backlash from mutual friends and I do not see it as my place. They no longer talk as far as I know and it was not sex, just a kiss, probably drunk when it happened and some phone calls after which have all stop. I feel that many people know but the spouse and I would hate to be in that person's shoes and finding out later how many people knew but me. If no one ever tells and my friend is not truthful then its a little dirty secret that a lot of people know about.

-Bearer of Bad News

Dear Bearer,
What a difficult situation to be in. Ideally, you would just be able to say, "This is none of my business," and let your friend tell his spouse and deal with the fall-out. But unfortunately, the friend is not 'fessing up. I agree with you - if I were the spouse, I would want to know what happened. It would feel foolish to find out, years after the fact, that many people knew my husband's indiscretion, but I didn't.

First, I must clarify - you must only consider telling if you are absolutely sure this man cheated on his wife. If this is a rumor, then please ignore it. But if the friend confessed to you, or you saw something, then you have good grounds for sharing the information with his wife.

I would recommend giving the friend a chance to confess first. Tell him that you are concerned for his wife, and that if he does not tell her within 3 (or however many) days, you will be sending her a letter/email with the details of what happened. In the letter, be brief and stick to the facts of what you know. Bear in mind, doing this will likely ruin your relationship with this man and his wife. You will likely never be on friendly terms again. But, I think it is more important to help this woman than to maintain a friendship.

Thank you for writing,

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving

Dear Jocelyn,
I have been with my boyfriend for nearly two years now and have come to know about the tragic death of his mother when he was young. I could really do with some help as to what I can do, as I have been with him for two mourning periods. During these times I feel absolutely helpless as I don't have a clue what to say or do as I have never been in a situation such as this before him. Any possible advice and help you could give me would be much appreciated. 
Thank you,

Dear Grieving,
My condolences to your boyfriend; it is hard to lose a parent at a young age, and not be able to rely on their wisdom during the coming-of-age and adult years. I have written about a similar situation here. The hard part about this (that I mentioned in the other post) is that grief is unique. There is no magic thing to say or do. The most important thing is to show your boyfriend support, and let him know that you are there for him. When he is mourning, ask him if there is anything you can do for him, and if there isn't, then simply be available for him to talk to and mourn with. He might also not want to talk about it, and that's ok also.

Since his mother died when he was young, he has probably dealt with it in some way, and is most likely not actively grieving for her. In that case, just be understanding whenever he mentions her, and don't shy away from letting him discuss his memories of her.

I hope you can find the right balance. Let him take the lead on this (as I would recommend for anyone grieving), and see where it takes you.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

How Do I Increase My Confidence?

Dear Jocelyn, 
Can you help me with my low self-confidence? I find that my mood and confidence level varies depending on what others say to me. I am very sensitive and have a hard time hearing criticism without taking it personally and feeling negative about myself. When someone praises me or my life is going well, I feel very positive about myself. But, I would like to have more stable self-confidence that is internal and less dependent on external factors.
I am concerned about this because it is affecting my life negatively in two ways: 
1) I also become nervous when I have to speak publicly. When making a presentation, I am not confident, my heart races, I have trouble breathing, and it is hard to speak.
2) I feel pressured to make decisions based on the opinions of others. I would like to feel more confident making my own decisions from my own opinions.

Thank you for your help!

Dear Unconfident,
Low self confidence is a problem that will take more than a simple advice column to address, but I will do my best to point you in the right direction. First, seek out a counselor in your area, preferably one who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These methods are evidence based and usually brief, so you will likely only be in therapy for a few months. If money is a problem, insurance usually covers counseling. If you don't have insurance, some counselors will charge a reduced rate for paying cash.

Some people take the opposite approach as you, and don't pay attention to what anyone says about them. While this might protect their ego, the opinion of those closest to us can provide valuable feedback, especially if we are off track. However, if you ONLY value what others think, you are bound to wind up very confused and on a roller coaster of emotions. This person will think you are too outgoing, another too private. Someone might see you as liberal, while
another sees you as conservative. It is important to remember others view you through their own unique lens, with a set of biases and presuppositions. No one person is entirely correct about you.

As a side note, you say it is hard to hear criticism and not take it. personally. In a sense, that is normal. I don't know of many people that love to hear what they are doing wrong. If it sends you into a
deep depression or funk, then that is not good. When you hear criticism in the future, take some time to evaluate it. How factual is the criticism? Is it purely opinion? Do others share this opinion? And more importantly, what do you think? If a coworker says a report was
terrible, is this someone whose work you respect? Do others think it was terrible? Do YOU think it was terrible? There is no one right answer to any situation, but taking the time to think critically about
this should keep your view of yourself from being tossed about. Here are two excellent websites for challenging criticism. They are meant for internal criticism, but the principles can also work for external criticism:’s-how-to-control-negative-self-talk/

Take some time to think about how you view yourself. What are some core features that you like about yourself? Are you kind? Open minded? Smart? When someone offers criticism in the future, remind yourself of these core features. Then remind yourself that everyone - yourself included! - has flaws. If you decide to accept the criticism as true,
then try to see it as an opportunity for improvement. After all, no one is perfect, and we don't grow without some discomfort.

You said this affects your public speaking ability, and your ability to form your own opinions. Fear of public speaking is fairly common. A local Toastmasters club should help you improve this skill. Public speaking can typically be improved with practice and relaxation exercises. Taking some calming breaths before going up might help. In addition, remember that anytime you have been asked to speak publicly, it is because YOU hold information or an opinion others want to hear. Your thoughts are valuable. 

As for your ability to form opinions, this is something I can relate to. When people you know have differing opinions, who do you trust? Both can make sense at times. The only thing that can help is really doing your own research and thinking about it.  Talking to other people helps, but on issues of politics, religion, money, health, and so forth, do as much research as you can. 
Then you will be more equipped to make a confident decision.

This is just some advice to get you started. Like I said, a therapist will provide better, more in depth exercises for you. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Destination Wedding Etiquette?

Dear Jocelyn,
We are planning on having a destination wedding in the Bahamas. We are requesting no gifts as our guests will be responsible for the travel fare and accommodations. Is this acceptable? Lastly, we do not want to invite people who we have either never met or met only once. This means that one or two spouses would not be invited. I am well aware what the wedding etiquette says. Is there a way around it if we explain it to our guests? I am a very private person and if it was my way, I would get married to my fiancé with a couple of witnesses and then have a separate party for everyone.
-Destination Bride

Dear Bride,
There are quite a few issues popping up in your letter. The biggest one is that it seems as if your wedding is not really turning out how you would like. While I do not believe having a wedding gives a bride carte blanche, and she must compromise with her groom, frequently brides end up being pulled in multiple directions by their mother, mother-in-law, and friends.  You said that if you had your way, you would get married with a few witnesses, and then throw a separate party.  Is it your fiancé who wishes to have a different wedding, or your family? If it is your fiancé, then I understand the compromise. If it is your family, then you and your fiancé need to have a serious talk about what you want, and how to set up boundaries with your family.

You asked if it is acceptable to request no gifts; while Miss Manners would say no (even acknowledging that someone might bring a gift is tacky to her), I think a simple note on the invitation saying, "We appreciate the effort everyone is taking in coming to our wedding, and that is enough of a gift to us!" or something similar would be fine.

You also asked about not inviting spouses.  While I defended the rights of couples to not give everyone a "plus one" in a previous post,  spouses are very different.  When you marry, you become one with the other person, and I believe that makes you a single unit. You said you know the wedding etiquette in regards to this, so you should also know that there is no way to explain this in a way that makes it acceptable.  If you cannot invite Susie's spouse, then you cannot invite Susie. If you wish to have Susie come but haven't yet met her husband, you simply must invite her husband.  

Lastly, I cannot end this without a word on destination weddings.  While these are becoming more popular, they pose many problems and are quite a burden on guests.  I do not know your reasons for having a wedding in the Bahamas; perhaps your guests are excited to join you and this makes everyone happy.  However, if you aren't positive about this, consider an alternative: marry your fiancé in the Bahamas with a few guests you fly out.  When you come back, throw a party for everyone else you wanted to have join you.  This will solve the problem of gifts and not inviting spouses (after all, it is not as big of a deal to invite someone you haven't met to a party versus your wedding).

In giving this advice, I have had to make several assumptions from your letter.  Please forgive me if any of it was incorrect, and please write back or comment to let us know what you decide.

No 'I Love You'?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have been with my boyfriend for 18 months, and he still has not said "I love you" to me. He finally met my two daughters after 14 months of being in a relationship with me. His actions certainly do speak louder than words, as he tries so hard to be my confidant. He is always trying to provide for my children and I, always tries to make me smile, listens, is affectionate, however he has a difficult time even saying "I miss you". What is going on? Should I just assess the unspoken love? I know it seems petty, but I need to hear it, just once!
-Craving Those Words

Dear Craving,
I recently responded to a reader with a similar question here. It certainly seems by his actions that he does love you, which is important.  However, it is completely normal for you to want to hear him confirm that with his words.  It is quite possible he simply does not express his emotions with words very well.  In that case, I would recommend talking to him about how important it is for you to hear certain things from him - "I miss you" or "I appreciate you" in addition to "I love you." If he makes an effort to say these things more often, then it is probably just that he struggles with putting his feelings into words, and you will have to help him with this during the course of your relationship.  

If, however, he is resistant to saying "I love you" after you talk to him, then you need to find out the reason.  Is he waiting until he proposes? Is he unsure whether he loves you? It would be fair to have a conversation with him asking where the relationship is heading, especially if he is still unsure whether he loves you after 18 months.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How Do I Keep the Size of My Wedding Under Control?

Dear Jocelyn,
fiancé and I are getting married in June. I come from a family of divorce and both my parents are remarried. My fiance's mother passed away when he was a child and his father is now remarried. This makes both of our families rather large. I am trying to keep our guest list to 175. I decided that all guests under 21, unless married or living together, do not get a plus one.

fiancé's stepsister, who is 18, has been with her boyfriend on again, off again for 3 years. I have decided not to invite him. Not only may they not be together when we get married but I feel that they are young and I would rather use his spot for one of my friends. His stepmother is very upset about this. Should I go back on my decision? My stepbrother who is the same age is not getting a plus one - and neither are any of our cousins who are all around the same age. I felt like this was such a small issue but now it has escalated into a larger issue than it needs to be.

Dear Confused,
You are right, this is a small issue; however, judging from the amount of mail I get about this, a surprising number of people don't seem to feel the same way! If she were the only young person with a boyfriend, I might say just make an exception just to keep the peace. However, with so many other teens attending, it would not be fair to make an exception just for her.  The only way to let her bring someone without letting others is to perhaps change the rule to allow immediate family members (such as her and your stepbrother) bring a date - however, you would have to decide if this would be worth the trouble, or if you would just be opening a can of worms.

To keep this from getting out of control (and to attempt to preserve your relationships with your new in-laws!), try first to talk to your fiancé's stepsister, face to face, and tell her your reason for not inviting her boyfriend. Gently say, "I'm so sorry, but I need to keep this wedding under 175 because we simply can't afford any more. I've already told everyone else (list a few people by name) that they cannot have dates, and it would be unfair of me to let you bring someone, and not them." As for his stepmother, let your fiancé explain the reasoning to her.  He knows her best, and can hopefully reason with her. If neither of them are understanding about this, then it might be time to accept that you are likely to have a rocky relationship with them in the future.  As I have written before, marriage is just the beginning for these kinds of difficult relationships.  Whether the issue is wedding guests, where to go for Thanksgiving, or how to raise your children, you are likely to have disagreements with family members. It it wise to learn early on how to handle these issues gracefully, but firmly.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Do I Not Invite an Abusive Cousin to My Vow Renewal?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am having a vow renewal in 2015 (its a part of my religion). I invited all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, as well as my husband's family to our wedding. For the 2015 vow renewal, I want to have my younger cousin on my mom's side in my bridal party, and I absolutely cannot invite my older cousin on that side (bad history of abuse with me as the recipient). 

However, only my mom, my husband, my therapist, and now you know this. My aunt is a wonderful woman and my godmother, and I desperately want to invite her and her younger daughter, without having to explain why or creating a rift. We are not inviting any one from my dad's side except my grandma. We are inviting all of my husbands side (he doesn't see them often, and there aren't many of them). Thanks for any light you can shed.
-In An Awkward Situation

Dear Situation,
What a difficult situation! I'm sorry you are facing this. As you probably know, it isn't really an option to simply not invite the older cousin and not say anything. So I think you have three options:

1) Email/call/sit down with your aunt and say something along the lines of, "I am very much hoping you and (younger cousin) are able to come to the vow renewal, however, I am unable to invite (older cousin). I cannot share the reason and I am sorry about that. I understand if this means you cannot come, but I very much hope you still can." And if (and when) she asks for details, simply say, "I really can't go into it. I know that is hard, but I can't."
2) Consider telling your aunt what happened. Since you know your family dynamics and the details of the abuse, only you can decide if this will cause more or less trouble than not telling her. If you do share, it will (probably) help her understand better why you cannot invite him. 

3) Don't invite anyone (or hardly anyone) to the vow renewal.

None of these are perfect options. In the first, you leave your aunt wondering about this secret, and she will likely press you for details. It might also strain your relationship, since she will know you are keeping a secret from her. The second option has you opening up about a very personal matter to the mother of the man that hurt you. It is quite likely that she will feel defensive for him, and she might not even believe you. The third option will help you avoid sharing that you do not want to invite your older cousin. While it will make your vow renewal a significantly smaller event, your aunt will be none the wiser about your secret.

I am sorry that I didn't have an easier option. You have quite a challenge ahead of you - best of luck.