Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife and I divorced in 2009. She has since remarried and returned the modest collection of letters and poems I wrote to her over the years. I'm no Langston Hughes or Gwendolyn Brooks, but I don't want to destroy them. Besides, I'm sentimental, and they remind me of a time when I was inspired to express my feelings in writing. I'm sure when I start dating someone else, she will not want my old love letters hanging around. Any suggestions on what I can do with them? -- Sentimental, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR SENTIMENTAL: I think it is lovely and incredibly thoughtful that your ex-wife treasured the letters and poems that you gave her enough to give them back to you. Clearly, she continues to value you even after your divorce.

Start by reading these letters again. Read them for the sentiment that you brought to them at the time. Put yourself back in those moments and remember what it felt like to be in love. When you meet someone new, you may want to ignite some of that sentiment in your new relationship.

Also read the letters for their literary value. Some of the greatest poetry was created when people were in love or falling out of love. Do you think there is any value in your writing for someone else? If so, you could gift them to your local school or library or even to family members who may value your personal sentiments. If you have children, they may relish in the words that once connected their parents. Sit with your words for a bit and let them tell you if it is time for you to destroy them or if there is a greater purpose that they may serve.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I read your response to a young boss who hadn't been able to handle a disrespectful employee. Your suggestion that he get assistance from the HR department and issue a verbal warning if the behavior continued was good; however, I would also add that voluntary and eventually mandatory Employee Assistance Program counseling is also an option if the company has an EAP contract. As a retired EAP counselor, I found that my position offered some neutrality to the on-the-job behavior, as well as other personal issues that may be fueling the behavior. -- Counselor, Shreveport, La.

DEAR COUNSELOR: Thank you for suggesting this very important function in many companies. You are absolutely right that EAP counseling can be invaluable in helping troubled employees find a bridge back to more solid footing. In this program, people are able to confidentially address any manner of issues that may be plaguing them -- from professional to personal. Sometimes, issues that are bothering people at home do affect their behavior at work. An EAP counselor may be able to help a distressed employee unlock the key to what's bothering him or her and find the path back to a healthy way of being on the job. To learn more about this service, visit