Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Don’t Let the Past Keep You From Love

DEAR NATALIE: I have three failed marriages in my young 57 years: one due to a serious illness of our daughter that drove us apart; one due to the fall I experienced in that first marriage as an alcoholic (I have since recovered) choosing someone who drank like me but who left me for another man, leading me to a 12-step program; and the third because I rebounded from No. 1 and No. 2 by becoming too submissive to an overbearing and controlling wife. Given my past three strikes, should I move on and seek another passion, such as pets to devote my attention, or do you think I can "dance" again with another woman? -- DOWN BUT NOT OUT 

DEAR DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Put on your dancing shoes! Life is too short to wonder "what if," and clearly you wouldn't be sending me this question if you were content to fill up your time with pets or other hobbies. Most people are better off two by two. Having a healthy relationship can be fulfilling on every level, and why deny yourself the opportunity to find love again? 

DEAR NATALIE: I have been working full time at a small local business for several months. As time has progressed, I have been given more and more responsibility. (The owner says I am the only employee she really feels she can count on.) Recently, she hired a new manager, and we have been bumping heads a bit. I feel like she doesn't like me, and she lies to the owner about me. If she makes a mistake, she tries to blame it on me. 

Now the owner tells me that she is cutting me down to part time because of "money issues." I'm fuming mad because I feel as though the reason she cut my hours was in direct correlation to the behavior of my manager toward me. We are supposed to have our six-month review coming up. What should I do? Do I bring it up to both of them or do I look for a new job? -- SHOPGIRL 

DEAR SHOPGIRL: What an incredibly frustrating situation! The owner has let the manager "take over" and is relying on her judgment instead of the relationship that you have built with the owner over these several months. Make a list of questions or concerns that you have and chat with the owner when you meet for your six-month review. However, if the manager is going to sit in, email the owner privately and ask to speak with her one-on-one. 

Tread carefully. Remember, the owner hired this person to manage, and so she may feel defensive about the situation. Stick to your own issues and do not throw the manager under the bus. Ask her where she sees you in the company in six months. Let her know that unless you can become full time in the near future, you may have to look somewhere else for a job.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Put away the mobile device and engage with the world around you. When we have our phones out, people assume you are busy working, checking email, etc., and they may not approach you. It can be a crutch (especially when we are nervous in a social setting) to distract ourselves, but remember: you won't make any new contacts if you are texting with people you already know! 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)