DEAR AMY: Five years ago, I entered a relationship with a woman I had dated in junior high school, way back in 1980. We met as friends, the relationship blossomed, and we were married about 20 months later. At the time we reconnected, my wife's daughter, "Tamryn," was 14. She is now 20. Tamryn and I had the usual battles, but got along pretty well until this past winter when Tamryn, for reasons escaping us, didn't think we'd notice that her then 17-year-old boyfriend, "Brian," was basically living with us. Brian turned 18 early this spring and is graduating from high school, but Brian being a minor was only part of the issue we had with him living with us. He was eating with us, she was doing his wash and he was taking showers, etc., but contributing nothing to the household. Tamryn's mother and I confronted her and presented her with an ultimatum — we said he could stay over on Friday and Saturday nights, but that's all. Tamryn chose instead to move out. She moved in with Brian and his grandparents. This was not the outcome we were hoping for, but we were not going to allow them to "play house" at our home, either. My wife misses Tamryn dearly, and I feel some guilt about her leaving. Any advice on this situation?

Caught in the Middle

DEAR CAUGHT: The whole point of an ultimatum is to present a clear choice, surrounded by natural consequences. "Tamryn" responded to yours, made her choice, and now you and her mother can hope for these things: that she is happy, healthy, and safe, that she continues to mature and grow and that she decides to have a friendly relationship with you two.

Her mother and you should keep in touch with her. Encourage her to walk a positive path of schooling and/or work, and let her know that you would enjoy seeing her and "Brian" any time.

Invite, but don't beg, her to spend time with you. Offer, but don't force, normal parental assistance and emotional support. Basically, respect her and keep the door open for a continued relationship. She is in a transitional time of life, and this period can be tough on parents, even under optimal circumstances. Everybody needs to be patient.

DEAR AMY: After meeting someone through playing bridge online, do you think I should continue the mild flirtations with him, even though I am married? He is not married, and by our second correspondence I told him I was definitely married. Can men and women be friends and indirectly (or directly) flirt, as long as they don't follow-up or personally meet up? I'm behaving myself, but definitely flirting.

Madame X

DEAR MADAME X: Let's have a looksee at the Golden Rule, which is to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

In this case, because you are married, ideally you would view your own behavior through your spouse's eyes. If he knew about it, how would your behavior make your husband feel?

If your husband behaved this way, how would you feel?

And not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. X might also be married. Or he might simply be a serial flirtist who doesn't worry about the possible consequences, because he doesn't face any consequences.

Online connections definitely foster all sorts of boundary-breaking behavior, because you tell yourself that, because all of the behavior is occurring virtually, it's "not real." Problems set in when virtual behavior becomes very real.

It's fun to flirt, and it can be fun to be flirted at. If this is truly harmless, then ... enjoy! But harmless flirting often leads to less-harmless flirting, where you form intimate connections that will undermine your primary relationship, which is your marriage.

Women and men can definitely have lovely and fulfilling friendships without flirting. I highly recommend it.

DEAR AMY: I agree with your advice that "Moving On" should drop her obnoxious, tone-deaf friend of 35 years, but disagree that it will be painful. Like Moving On, I am part of a longtime group of friends. One in our group slowly morphed into Marie Antoinette. The shameless social climber was confronted, and bowed out of the group. That was three years ago, and I didn't miss our 30-year friendship for a minute. It's quite easy to move on when you no longer share values.

Free at Last

DEAR FREE: Dropping a friend can be painful ... until the overwhelming relief sets in.

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