DEAR AMY: My brother and his wife of 20 years divorced recently. My brother is now dating someone else. My son is graduating from high school and we invited this now-divorced aunt to attend. My brother says he's not coming to our party because his ex-wife is. We do not live close to each other and my mother, who is in poor health, planned to have a family reunion at this graduation get-together. My brother gets along fine with his ex-wife, as do the rest of us. I can only assume his girlfriend is causing the drama. My brother stated that it would be a little awkward with his ex-wife there. I don't believe that "a little awkward" justifies not attending, especially since our mother has her heart set on this. "Uninviting" his ex is not an option. That would be rude and morally wrong. I am disgusted that the situation has come to this and very disappointed in my brother. Any ideas or suggestions?
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Your brother does not get to dictate or manipulate your choice over whom you invite to a family party. You should respond, "If you choose not to attend this graduation and reunion I (along with other family members) will be very disappointed, but I can't make your decisions for you. I hope you'll rethink this choice, because we would genuinely love to see you." If your brother is being manipulated by his girlfriend, then your neutral, calm and clear response will serve as a positive example for him to follow. He'd be wise to pay attention.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been together for six years. We have touched on the topic of marriage but have said nothing definitive. I am nervous that if I ask him whether he wants to marry me, he will say he'd rather not. Our relationship has endured long distances and the fact that he is Canadian and I am American. My sister is getting married this year, and it has made me wonder if I will get to wear a beautiful white dress and have my dad walk me down the aisle too. Should I ask my boyfriend about marriage or be patient and let him bring up the subject?
Always a Bridesmaid
DEAR BRIDESMAID: After six years of togetherness and weathering the curveballs that life has thrown you, it is surprising that you fear your boyfriend will respond with an answer about marriage that you don't want to hear.
You should approach this assuming that you will be forced to face your guy's negative reaction. "Let's talk together about marriage" should be a conversation, not a command. But if you can't have the most important conversation of your life with the person you love, then YOU are not ready for the next step.
Bringing this up will be a brave choice, but if you can confront your own wishes and hopes with openness and honesty, you will learn that you are also brave and strong enough to face the consequences.
DEAR AMY: I really liked your advice to "Little Red Hen." She wanted her live-in boyfriend to share expenses equally, even though she owned the house. When my (then) boyfriend moved into my condo, we discussed this same issue. I bought the condo and had a mortgage I could handle with a roommate. Since he was going to be the new roommate, I needed his help. He paid for half, and I told him if/when we got married all of the "rent" would go toward building "his" equity on my home. We ended up married and without a prenup, so the point was moot. But I think he appreciated my offer to let him "buy in" to the home without having to come up with a down payment. Now we own a house I couldn't afford without his income, so it's a fair deal all around!
Happy Little Hen
DEAR HAPPY: Your balanced solution made this easy. Well done.