Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Credit destroyed by ex? Mother isn’t interested in dating again?

DEAR NATALIE:  My credit was destroyed by my ex-girlfriend, who racked up huge bills on my cards before we broke up. I didn’t offer my cards. She would just take them when we would have a fight and go on a shopping spree. I’m a bus driver, I don’t have a ton of money, and I’ve been trying to save up to buy a house. But, of course, this has hurt my chances of getting a loan. I talked to a financial planner, and on the track that I am on, because I’ve been rebuilding my credit, he thinks in about a year I should be in better financial standing about all of the charges. There are still a few charges left on my card that she refuses to pay back. Do I let the charges ride and deal with the credit issues for another year, or should I pay them off even though they weren’t my charges? I feel really angry about the whole thing and I don’t want to pay them off, but my friends keep saying just do it and move on with your life. What should I do? —CREDIT WRECK

DEAR CREDIT WRECK: You are doing yourself more harm than good by letting those charges sit there out of spite. She and you are over. It sounds like that’s a good thing. Anyone who would act like that when they are in a fight with you is not someone you should want to be with. Clearly, you figured that out the hard way. If you can afford to pay down this debt, even if it is a little bit at a time, do so. Don’t let what happened in your past wreck your future. If you want to buy a home, better your life, find new love, whatever it is you can’t turn that page until this chapter is done. It may also be that you unconsciously don’t want to pay this off because that means the relationship is really over. Emotions are complicated and so are people. The only way to truly move on is to accept this situation for what it is, finish paying off the debt and get her out of your life forever. Only then will you be really free to move forward and begin again.

DEAR NATALIE: My father died not even two years ago, and my 81-year-old mother moved into an assisted living facility nearby. Recently, one of the residents has been dropping by every day to bring her gifts such as magazines, cookies, flowers ... you get the idea. She is being “courted.” He even stopped by just to show my mom some photos of his grandkids the other morning, and then they had coffee together. My mom thinks he is romantically interested in her. My parents were married for more than 50 years and while she is flattered, she has no interest in dating anyone. She’s so sweet, however, and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. How does one approach this subject? 


DEAR AWKWARD ROMANCE: There could be a happy middle ground here. Maybe he is interested in her, romantically speaking. Maybe he is lonely, too. Maybe having coffee together or bringing her gifts was too much too soon, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends. If she likes his company, she should just be honest about where she is in her life. She could say something like: “I enjoy our visits, but I am still very much married in my heart. I would like to be friends, though.” This will either put him off, which means he will leave her alone, or maybe it will open a door to have a friendly companion. Sometimes, as children, we have a tendency to want to parent our parents when they get older. And sometimes that is warranted. Other times, it is not. It sounds like your mother may want some company with one of her peers. Ask her what she wants. Be supportive in whatever that means, and put your own feelings aside. But, if this person is really obnoxious and bothering her to the point that she doesn’t want him to come around, you may have to intervene. You could say something like: “While my mom really appreciates you reaching out, she just isn’t ready for any new friends. I hope you understand.” I think we sometimes forget that people of all ages want relationships; they want love, romance and friendship. Don’t be so quick to assume that you understand or know what she may want, but also be there to support her with any decision she arrives at. As my gram always said: “Getting older is for the tough.” Trust your mom, and be there for her.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Just be yourself. Sound too easy? Sometimes when we are nervous, we have a tendency to “fake” it. Fight that. No phony laugh. No forced questions. Just be friendly and be yourself. Having that genuine touch is what keeps people intrigued and wanting to support you.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

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