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Dear Mrs. Web:
I cannot imagine why you think you have it all. It sounds like a difficult, exhausting and lonely life. This may be time for you to rethink your priorities and find the kind of work and community so you can just sit, talk, and laugh. You may want to consider what kind of past experiences in your life may have led you to such a lonely existence. It is time for you to dream, plan and move towards the life, connections and commitments that will fill your heart and challenge you.
We live in a culture that tells men and women that all that is needed in life are "things" and "celebrity." Extended family groups are gone, nuclear families are atomized at will, and only the me, myself and I counts. Of course, this is a lie. Most people want and need a beloved and relationships ties. Stop listening to the common culture telling you what you are supposed to feel and do. Instead face the truth, decide what is really important and make it your life.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I always give a lot to my relationships, my husband, family members, and friends. I am starting to resent this because I donít get much back. I hardly ever get what I really want. What should I do?
Everyone should have boundaries. Relationships are like tennis, you volley, and you get a volley back. Sometimes you volley two or three times, but there should equal generosity in the returns.
When you lose your boundaries, you get forgotten, put-upon, and used. Even well meaning people tend to push boundaries as far as possible. I also think that some people let themselves be mistreated or have their needs ignored because of poor boundaries. When they are poorly treated or taken for granted they work even harder to be noticed by the beloved. One should always ask for what one wants. No one reads minds.
There are people and times you wonít get an obvious return, of course: babies, children and teens, the elderly and severely disabled. In these cases, your responsibility towards them is primary and the returns come in different forms.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am a friend of a man who is married who announced last week that his wife is expecting their first child. I have never met his wife. He has had at least one extramarital affair, with a 16-year-old girl, which is over now. He told me all about this affair as it happened and it made me very uncomfortable. Yesterday he told me he has solicited a woman over the Internet, and is paying her plane fare for a secret sexual rendezvous.!
I got very angry and reminded him that he had a pregnant wife at home. "I seem to have lost my conscience," he admitted. I tried to convince him to cancel this new woman, but he is adamant. He kept making flimsy excuses: "I must live sometime. I'm making up for lost moments. My wife will never know."
I do not condone adultery and I think what he is doing is despicable,
especially when his wife has a baby due. He said I am the only person
who knows. Is there anything I can do? Would I be justified in writing
an anonymous note to his wife telling her about her husband's
infidelity? He once said that if his wife ever found out she'd probably
kick him out of the house. I am beginning to believe he deserves it.
First thing I would do in your shoes is to close your moral boundaries a bit and dump this "friend." He is a moral zero.
I do not believe in anonymous letters. I think they are not to be trusted. Too many people use them to hurt people. In your shoes my thoughts would be: if you believe that his stories are true and it would be right to do, sit down with his wife and tell her your concerns. His wife and baby are at risk for the sexually transmitted diseases this bounder drags home as well as lawsuits and criminal actions if he continues to have sexual encounters with underage girls.
Keep away from him, he is, in the immortal words of my grandmother: "a crumb."
Dear Mrs. Web,
I don't know whether I have made a mistake. I recently purchased an expensive new car and have three years of stiff payments ahead. The car is the only thing stopping me from traveling internationally for a few months. I have always yearned to do this.
Some people tell me that this is the only time in my life I would be able to have an expensive car, because I still live with my parents. Others say that I should have traveled first. I will be 21 in the autumn. I am confused. What would you have done, bought the car or traveled?
You can grunt out the three years or you can sell the car and travel. In your shoes I would travel. I didn't travel very much when I was young. Now that I am older than dust, it is one of my profound regrets.
Marriage, family, children, ill parents, and a sundry of other older adult responsibilities creep up quickly. You can always purchase another car.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My husband and I have lost our motivation to clean, and keep up the house. Even folding clothes seems like too much. He works at home and it's very tight with his office, the 2 of us, and an 85 pound retriever. This morning I talked with him and he said he was depressed because he can't take the house the way it is anymore.
Our motivation has been so bad we don't even walk the dog 2 times a day anymore. We all have,, dog included, gained weight. We are trying to gain control over our eating and doing much better with our diets.
It's crazy to get depressed because you're house isn't clean, isnít it? Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Mrs. Web firmly believes that the condition of a personís home can affect his mood. Dear Mrs. Web becomes positively overwhelmed with the flotsam and jetsam of one husband, four obedient, well-mannered but sloppy children, two messy guinea pigs, one ant farm, a bowl of polliwogs, and one not-so-well-mannered dog.
Dear Mrs. Web has long been a firm advocate of household help: daily, twice a week, weekly, twice a month, once each season, or twice a year. Whatever the budget will manage. When faced with the kind of slump you are having, bringing someone in to help you sort out the mess is a godsend. It cost a bit, but I chalk it up to the mental health and well-being fund.
Please realize you are writing to a woman who, when single, had a one-room apartment and a regular cleaning woman.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My best friend has been dating this guy for about three years. At the very beginning of their relationship, he and I spent an evening together. We almost ended up in bed but we both realized in time that it wasn't the right thing to do.
I never told my friend about this little moment, and now they are happy and in love. They are planning their wedding for this autumn. I feel that this past event is keeping me from being completely open with her. It was a long time ago and I don't even know if it would really matter to her now, but I can't stop thinking about it.
I don't want to ruin her relationship or our friendship. Should I tell her?
No, of course it would still matter to her. You and the boyfriend almost made a mistake, but you didnít. This is both your burden and your responsibility. I donít know why you want to dump it on her. It would be unkind. Friendship is not about blowing up peopleís relationships.
Let me give you one piece of information: friendship is not about being completely open. Friendship includes the flexibility of tact, warmth, and discretion.
I donít know why you are still carrying this issue around. Quit worshiping and worrying it and let it roll off your shoulders. Moreover, continue to behave yourself around her beloved. Dance at their wedding with a clear conscience. You both did the right thing.
Dear Mrs Web,
About two years ago, I underwent a sex-change surgery, from male to female. I am very happy now that I have all that behind me now, but I still have one problem. I am told that I walk, and sit too much like a man - and I'm very self-conscious about it.
I have been looking for help with this problem. I have even contacted several modeling and charm schools, hoping that they might be able to help me move in a more feminine manner. The problem I face is that no one will respond or follow up on my initial contacts. I'm sure this is an unusual request, but it is one that I take very seriously. I hope you might be able to send me in the right direction.
If you are contacting modeling and charm schools and telling them that you are post-sex change, and you want to walk more like a girl, you will probably not receive calls back. Although transsexuals are more in the news lately, it is not something comfortable or familiar. Most people tend to shy away from anything so unusual.
If you truly think you are a woman now and want to add more charm and grace to your movements, that is what you should ask for.
Dear Mrs. Web
Her husband suspected her infidelity and moved out. I met with and spoke to the man she was seeing and told him to end the relationship. I didn't say anything to her husband.
She hasnít really spoken to me since. I called her and told her I was trying to be a good friend. She says sheís not mad but when I see her at bowling once a week, she refuses to talk to me. She is back with her husband. I heard that she is now spreading cruel rumors about me.
My other friends and family say I should be angry with her but I just feel sorry for her. I miss her friendship. I think we could just forget about what happened and be friends again. Should I confront her and talk it out?
I know you were her good friend, but you put yourself in the middle of her life. You stepped over a line. I am not saying it wasnít a good thing for you to do, but the interference cost you the friendship. Sometimes we interfere to do someone good, like telling someoneís family he is abusing drugs or is suicidal. These actions may ruin a friendship, but are what a good friend does.
I understand you miss your friend. Perhaps, someday you will have some sort of relationship with this woman, but not now.
From my perspective, you havenít lost a whole lot. Your friend is philandering liar. Why would you want her in the middle of your life? These behaviors, and her subsequent treatment of you, are all indicators of poor character. It is one thing to understand someoneís motives, but it doesnít mean we have to accept the behavior. We shouldnít have friends that compromise our integrity.
Friendships that end should be mourned. You might want to make up a goodbye ritual for yourself, such as putting all pictures and mementos from the friendship in a box or doing something alone that you both enjoyed doing together. Give it time. You will find a strong desire and habit to want to call and communicate, but over time, this will diminish. You will find another close friend. I know this because you have been a good friend and many people are looking for one.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My best friendís husband is cheating on her with a neighbor of mine. I see him with her often during the weekday. My friend has wonderful children and I hesitate to rock the boat. Should I tell my friend? Should I send her an anonymous letter? I would hate to be the one to break my friendís heart.
I think an anonymous letter would be much more painful than having loving friend break the news gently and with concern. Besides one shouldnít ever give credence to anonymous sources. It could be the work of spite or malice.
Dear Mrs Web,
What makes some people choke under stress?
The pressure. Some thrive on it; others find the spotlight and the responsibility to be too much for them. It distracts them and scares them. The fear translates into a physical stiffness. Mentally they become less focused and more self-conscious. Thus, their performance deteriorates.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am 34 years old and have been an introvert all my life. I simply feel more comfortable to talking to some people and tend to clam up around others. Since I have this shyness and insecurity, people sometimes think I act like a snob.
I feel bad about this and have few friends. Some people have told me I have a phony smile. It is bothering me that people I meet are getting the wrong impression. I want to make more friends. Help!
There are different kinds of clamming up. There is no reason as an introvert to have people come away with the impression that you are snobbish. You need to learn about the cues you are projecting and how to change them to your advantage. Do you have a good friend or sibling who would be brutally honest with you about how you project yourself? Someone who can watch you with a group and then debrief you?
I have had more shy people tell me that they have found that old chestnut of a book by Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People very helpful for overcoming shyness and learning people skills.
Others have told me the various Dale Carnegie courses have been very helpful. I have read the book but have never taken any of the courses. I have no personal interest in the program but pass this nugget of information along for your information.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am really stressing about college. I havenít received my acceptances yet from the colleges I applied to and I am worried that I will not get into any of them. I need ways to stop my stress. HELP ME!!
Dear Mrs Web wants to assure you that it is out of your hands and you will do just fine, whatever happens.
When I am stressed over something I have no control over, I make sure I treat myself well. I also do relaxation exercises and play calming music. I get rid of television and anything blaring and jangling. Long hot soaks in the tub, my favorite books and movies, a favorite food as a treat, and lots of exercise, I usually walk three miles a day but I will increase it to five during extremely stressful times. I take all the other stress I can away, such as extraneous appointments, or other worries. I do my best to cooperate with my family and avoid the people I find difficult to cope with in my life.
The other thing you need to realize is that is nothing in a college rejection that can really hurt you. You may be disappointed, but when one path closes other paths open. You have nothing to fear.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am a new member of a small, local organization. We have an email group. Occasionally a member will post information that has nothing directly to do with the organization, usually political in nature. These political emails and petitions offend me. They in no way reflect my beliefs and politics. What should I do?
I would say how you feel about this is your responsibility. Feeling offended by other's beliefs is in my opinion, childish. Good people disagree about politics (and religion). You own your feelings and responses. In your shoes, I would hit the delete key and forget about it.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My closest friend for twelve years is getting married. During her first marriage, our friendship was stronger than ever. With her coming marriage however, I get the feeling our friendship is on the skids.
Soon I will be the guy that visits every other Thanksgiving. Her children will vaguely remember me. It seems like she has found the perfect man and doesnít need me anymore. We used to have so many inside jokes, now I listen to her tell me about their inside jokes. When other close friends got married, I didn't lose a close friend; I gained more good friends. But this one feels different.
It is hard when relationships change. As intimacy increases a couple binds closer together, leaving others behind. In the best of worlds, they make each other the best friend. Others become a bit more peripheral. This is not unusual.
However, it is a big leap from the center of everything to a turkey dinner every other year. Make sure you are not contributing to the situation. Every relationship is slightly different. The reality is that her husband-to be may be threatened by your emotional intimacy with her.
Sometimes friendships change. Friendships are not as durable as family ties. We donít shed mothers or brothers, we do shed friends. For friends are bound by affection, respect and admiration, and common interests and usefulness. These can be fragile ties. When these reasons unravel, the friendship changes, or even ends.
We live in a culture that tells us friendship can substitute for family relationships. This is false. Friendship is more tenuous. It is based on your behaviors, the circumstances, and the needs of the friend, as well as yours.
Dear Mrs. Web
I am a single 35-year-old man who works at a family business and lives in the suburbs. Most of my friends have gotten married and are settling down with their families. I am closing this month on a new house in my neighborhood. This is the second time I have bought a house in the suburbs here. The first one I bought and sold because I decided to live in the city. I never did move there though, and now with my familyís encouragement, I find myself again buying a house here.
The city is a long commute from here. I would love to rent a loft there, perhaps have a roommate, and live near the restaurants and entertainment the city offers. I have said I was going to do it for years, but never have made the leap. Frankly, where I live feels like home and I am reluctant to change. I just feel like I should leave my home area for a while and experience the broader world. I am confused and in a panic because I am supposed to close this month.
It sounds like you really want to move into the city for a while. It also sounds like you are tied to your work in the suburbs. Sometimes one needs a change. I think it would do you good to move to the city for a while. The suburbs will always be there, waiting for you.
Perhaps it is time to plan your life a bit more instead of just letting it happen. Sit down and list where and how you want your life to look in 5, 10, and 20 years. Then list what you need to do to achieve these goals. This will give you a framework and purpose for your decisions.
By the way, if you can afford it, you can close on this house, rent it out to cover its expenses, and rent the loft you want. Talk to your realtor.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am a man in my late sixties. I live alone now. My health is not that good. I have children from two of my three marriages. I really am not interested in becoming involved in another relationship. I watch television all day and go out for a walk in the afternoon and pick up some groceries for supper. On Friday, I have supper out. No one ever calls.
I never got very far in life, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the past, and sometimes I just go over the many mistakes I have made wishing I had done things differently. What should I do?
Sometimes it is hard to accept the past. We need to focus on the good things, and realize that we all have made choices based on our limited abilities. As a friend I admire very much says, We do the best we can." Is there a minister or doctor you can talk to about your thoughts? I would recommend it.
Sounds like you need to get out and involved in life more. There is nothing like a small, cute dog to help you focus on something else beside yourself. A dog is fun. A dog needs to be walked often and the exercise will be beneficial to your outlook. Dogs are also the best people magnets I know. Pick a small heartbreaker. I have seen this work with many lonely people.
Dear Mrs. Web,
Whenever I'm in a situation where I talk with girls I get all hot, sweaty, blushing and embarrassed. I canít even look them in the eye. I feel like I don't have control of the situation. I'm totally self-conscious (I go to the washroom a lot just to look in the mirror to make sure I look all right). I generally have this problem around all strangers (also when public speaking) but never as bad as when I'm trying to talk with girls.
Around my friends, I am a totally different. Is there something wrong with me? A pretty girl in my class said hello recently. I blushed and mumbled something inane. I would just like to be able to ask her out.
Your hyperawareness of yourself and otherís reactions to you, combined with a self-critic can tie anyone up in knots. Behavioral retraining methods can help one change the hyperawareness and turn off those critical tapes in your mind. Does your university have a personal counseling office? Make an appointment and ask for a referral to a behavioral oriented psychotherapist.
In the meantime, let me tell you that I am familiar with that shy, tongue-tied heart pounding feeling. Most people have it to one degree or another when placed in an unfamiliar situation. The best method I have found to deal with it is to immediately get my mind off me. I do that by having a standard repertoire of questions I ask others about themselves when I find myself tongue-tied.
I ask them where were they born, who lives in their family, where they went to school, what their hobbies areÖThen I focus intently on their answers and use it as a springboard for further questions. People love to focus on themselves and they are their favorite subject. As they talk, I learn about them and my anxiety cranks down.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am a 41-year-old - recovering addict with eight years of sobriety. I have not been in a loving relationship for over 10 years - not even "casual sex."
Work, being part of my children's lives, and other reasons have always come first. Truthfully, I am scared to death of actually finding a mate.
Everyday I rush home after work, hide away until the next morning, and repeat. Initially in my sobriety, the solitude was fine. Now I am so lonely and wish to be involved with a life-mate. I am even avoiding my women friends because I am tired of making up relationships - how sad Ė so I would fit in. I am intelligent, attractive, and so confused. I just want to feel again.
You sound tremendously lonely. And you seem to be isolating even more. Are you going to meetings? Have you done step work?
When I hear about fantasy and lies, and retreating, I would recommend you get yourself to a meeting and get involved in a home group. Individuals go in and out of their need for intensive recovery work. It sounds like it is time for you begin it over your isolating tendencies. Meetings will also get you out of your isolation and listening and interacting with a wide variety of people. Keep in touch.
Dear Mrs. Web,
I am finding it hard to make and keep friends. It is really bothering me. I would like to have a best friend or group of friends that I can count on. I have lost touch with my high school friends. I have tried to keep in touch with my neighborhood friends and church friends by sending Christmas cards or a phone call twice a year, but they do not reciprocate. I have invited people over for tea but hear nothing back from them.
However, I thought it would be nice for our children and us if we could get together with friends every once in awhile. How do I go about making friends and establishing a circle of friends?
People tell me making friends is harder to do in many locations. Busy lives, television, and the fractured families make it harder than ever to connect. Some families have to schedule time to be together, never mind, socializing with others. Neighborhoods, which once teemed with children, and opportunities for adult friendships, are now empty because both parents work and the children are in daycare.
That said, there are plenty of people out there to be friends with, but you have to look for them. Since you are a churchgoer, shop around for a church, which puts a premium on relationships. Look for one that holds potlucks and has small group ministries.
Another option is to find an interest and immerse your family in it. I know families who are historical war re-enactors, snowmobile club participants, 4H families, homeschool groups families, private school families, and track and field families, among others. These families members have found their friends in their interest area.
Remember friendship is a combination of affection, respect and usefulness with a varying measure of commitment added. Friends come in all types and styles from as-close-as-a-sister, to the people you stand and catch up with at soccer, to the once-a-year heart to heart phone call people.
I even know families who have moved to certain communities and neighborhoods specifically because of the community and friendship opportunities available. Or they summer at certain locations for the same reasons. Join in, give a hand, become a part of a group, add fun to the group, and keep reaching out. Friends will appear.
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