Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Dad's Anger Makes Daughter Unhappy

DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents are divorced, and I am somewhat close to my father, but he is getting on my nerves. I hate going to visit him. For the past two years, he has been angry and grumpy all the time. He and his wife argue all the time, and it drives me crazy -- it is always over stupid things, and he always starts the arguments. Sometimes he snaps at me, and, frankly, whenever I go to visit them, I am happy when he is at work. I don't want to keep visiting if this is going to keep happening. What can I do? -- Uncomfortable Daughter, New Haven, Conn.

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE DAUGHTER: Step back for a moment. Reflect on what has been going on in the past two years. Did your father's work change? Did his wife's? Is anyone ill in the family? Usually, if there is a dramatic change in someone's behavior, it is precipitated by something.

You can ask your father if he is OK. Tell him you have noticed that he seems to be in a bad mood a lot. Ask if wants to talk about it. Tell him you love him but that it is sometimes hard for you to be around him because he and his wife are often arguing and unhappy.

When you have a chance to speak to your father privately, let him know that you want to support him in any way you can, and ask him to be there for you, too. Your conversation with him may help him to see his behavior. Very often, when people are in the throes of emotional challenge, they do not realize how they are acting.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been dating my boyfriend since my freshman year of college, and while he is a wonderful guy and all, I find myself having feelings for his best friend. My boyfriend is a year older than I am, and he graduated this summer. He is going away to law school. His best friend and I are the same age, and he will be staying at his university, which is close by, so we will probably hang out more than before. I feel guilty for having these feelings, but I don't want to break up with my boyfriend. What do I do? -- Torn, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR TORN: Have you ever heard of the concept of "first things first"? Before even considering dating anyone else, particularly your boyfriend's best friend, figure out what you want. You say you don't want to break up with your boyfriend. Why? What do you like about your relationship? Figure out if your bond is worth holding onto. If so, resist the temptation of pursuing anything with his friend. If you are unsure about the bond, deal with it. Break up if that feels right. Only if you are available should you attempt to date anyone. Think before you make the choice to date his best friend, though. It is likely that such a union will just end up hurting everyone.