Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Pen Pal Irked by Online Loan Request

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently met a woman on a popular social media website. We have been talking for about two months, and I consider her to be a virtual pen pal.

A few weeks ago, my friend told me her father passed away, and I sent her an email to express sorrow at her family's loss. Two weeks after the funeral, my friend asked in an email to borrow $500 to help pay the additional funeral cost. I quickly told her that I would not be able to help cover the additional cost.

What makes a person think they can ask a stranger for money? -- No Money Lost, New York

DEAR NO MONEY LOST: Let's start with the reality that funerals can be expensive -- usually more costly than people estimate -- so your friend may really be short on cash. Because she has been communicating with you so much and she may feel desperate, she may have reached out on the off chance that you would help. You have no obligation to give her money.

This woman is not a stranger. You have been communicating with her for two months, and you are getting to know each other. She may not be one of your best friends, but you do have a relationship with her. Do not diminish that. Just be clear about your boundaries. You can say "no" without being mean or feeling affronted.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been separated from my wife for the last six months, and during our time apart, I started dating again. I met a beautiful young lady. I made her aware of my current situation, and she appreciated my honesty. After our initial date, we started spending so much time together that I asked her to move in with me. My girlfriend agreed, and I am so happy.

I told my family about my current relationship status, and they were not happy with my decision. I was told that I should have waited to start dating until the divorce was final. I'm lonely and impatient. I can't wait an additional year to start dating again. I know my family means well, but I need to live my life. -- The Ink Has Not Dried, Baltimore

DEAR THE INK HAS NOT DRIED: Sorry, but I agree with your family. Rushing into a new relationship before ending your marriage completely is not a setup for success. In many states, couples have to be separated at least one year before they are eligible to get divorced. Couples can use that time to help get their houses in order, so to speak.

Now that you already have the new partner living with you, it is messy. Clean up the mess as quickly as you can by ending your marriage properly.