Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I have been dating my girlfriend for nine years. When we met she was going through a divorce and had kids to raise, so there was no rush to take our relationship beyond dating. Now with the kids gone we have been talking about getting married. She is a very loving, caring and fun person to be with. All my friends and family think she's great and so do I except for one little thing: She lies! They're not big lies, but silly ones she calls "little white lies." I have talked to her about it and she feels justified doing so in order to prevent hurting other people. That's because she has a hard time saying "no." If someone were to call and ask a favor, the only way she can say "no" is to make up some sort of story about why she can't do it. She knows I don't like it and she might be getting better about it, but I still have a hard time with it. If little lies come so easily to her, what about big lies? What do you think about this?

Concerned

DEAR CONCERNED: I agree that this habit could create basic trust issues between you. For instance, if she told you she couldn't call because her phone ran out of juice, could you believe her? In addition to you asking her to continue fighting this bad habit, you should explore your behavior to see if you are contributing to the problem. Does she feel the need to inflate situations because you don't think small excuses ("I couldn't find my other shoe") are "good enough?" If she could learn how to say "no" effectively, she would save lots of hurt feelings in the long run.

Here's my short "no" lesson: "I'm so sorry but I can't do that. Please don't hesitate to ask another time." The more layers a person paints on top of this basic "no," (no matter how benign), the more likely that the relatively minor lie will blow up and create problems for everyone.

If she can overcome this problem, it will free her in ways she can't even anticipate. You cannot control how she treats other people, but you should continue to encourage her to change her behavior toward you.

DEAR AMY: My mother and I have always had a strained relationship. She loves to create drama, is oblivious to her behavior and makes everyone else (especially me) the bad guy. She loves to get attention and sympathy. Things have gotten worse ever since I had a baby. Despite my telling her repeatedly that I want her to see her granddaughter and that we would like to visit any time, she seems to make little effort. She prefers to complain about how my daughter will never recognize her, and she criticizes my parenting. She has refused my requests for counseling to work on our relationship. Should I leave the ball in her court or do I keep chasing her so she can see her granddaughter?

Tired Momma, Hates Drama

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DEAR MOMMA: People who create and then seem addicted to drama don't change easily. Your mother feels more comfortable in the center of a maelstrom, where she can blame you for her own disappointments and failings.

Don't press her to see your daughter, but do make sure she knows you'd be happy to arrange a visit whenever she wants and pop in to see her from time to time. Given your mother's volatility and lack of integrity, you should be wary of leaving your daughter alone with her.

Counseling will help you learn to cope with this very challenging relationship.

DEAR AMY: Your advice to "Panties in California" was perfect. He can rest assured that many men wear women's underclothes. He's quite lucky that his fiancee allows him to do this. My wife absolutely detests even the thought of my doing this and will not discuss it.

No Frills for Me

DEAR NO: I've heard from many men who reported that they enjoy wearing women's underwear.