DEAR AMY: Years ago when I was in my early 30s, I landed a great job with an excellent company. I've been very happy here all this time, except in the past 15 months or so. My good friend retired and a young woman in her mid-20s was hired to take her place. When she's in the office, she has all of our co-workers rallying around her, trying to prop her up and help her with every little thing, from using the computer to getting directions to places, to covering for her many sick days. Most of the time she's out of the office, claiming some horrible illness or recovery from surgery. My co-workers are nice people but from my vantage point, they are a bunch of suckers and she's laughing at their gullibility while they worry and cover for her. Recently, my frustration got the better of me and I started complaining about her absences. Someone overheard me and clued her in. I apologized and promised I wouldn't talk about her again, but now it's tense with her and I'm even more unhappy. This unfortunate breakdown of mine turned me into a "mean girl" and she is the victim. It's so frustrating I don't know how to handle it. I don't really have proof that she's lying about her illnesses -- it's just a hunch. I don't have to deal with her directly and her excuses and absences don't really affect my work. Any suggestions?
(Not Really A) Mean Girl
DEAR NOT REALLY: Your retired friend might be a good person to talk to about this; she knows you and understands the personalities and dynamic at work.
I'm also going to suggest a brave and radical option, which has helped many a "mean girl" turn things around: Get to know this co-worker better. Would she be willing to have coffee with you? Who knows -- you might see what the fuss is all about. Regardless of the outcome, you will have done everything possible to make this right. I think you will be happier if you do.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been together for three years. We have one daughter together and another on the way. He was often gone long hours "working" and I began to question if he was having an affair. When I was five months pregnant he confessed that he had actually been doing hard drugs for the past five years and staying away from home to wear off his high. I have never done drugs or had experience with this type of behavior; however, it seems to be the norm in his family. It's been three months since his confession and I wonder if I will ever trust this man again. Some days I can barely look him in the eye thinking of the shame and pain he has brought to our family. He is a great father and is trying to be a better partner to me, but I can't help but feel strange around him. We have done some counseling and he promised to seek drug counseling but nothing came of it. How do I put this behind us and work on the future?
DEAR CONFUSED: Three months is probably too soon for you to put all of this behind you. Your husband hid his drug use for five years; you would be wise to assume that this could happen again.
Educate yourself about drug use and abuse and continue to go to counseling. Ask your therapist for a recommendation for a local "friends and family" group you could attend in order to communicate with others whose lives have been impacted by drug use.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the letter from "Grieving Sister," whose brother-in-law moved on "too soon" after the death of his wife: Anyone who has cared for a spouse for a long, terminal illness experiences intense grief and loneliness long before the spouse dies. Grieving Sister is counting her brother-in-law's true loss from the wrong date.
DEAR BEEN THERE: You're saying that his grief and loss didn't start with the day of his wife's death. Good point. Thank you.