Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is getting married, but I do not think that he is ready. My friend is 15 years younger than his fiancee. He is 31, and his fiancee is 46 years old. They have been dating for a year now, and they set a wedding date for this fall. I am excited for them, but I am concerned about the age difference. My friend's parents are going help pay for the wedding while his fiancee continues her college education. How do I support my friend's decision to get married even thought I don't think he is ready? -- Dearly Beloved, Newark, N.J.

DEAR DEARLY BELOVED: It is not your place to judge whether your friend is ready to get married. While age difference can be a challenge for some couples, it is not a given. Also, getting engaged a year after dating is a common amount of time.

I understand that you are concerned for your friend. I recommend that you spend time with the two of them and get to know his fiancee. Be supportive of their relationship. Look for the good in it and celebrate that. If you discover legitimate doubts about their compatibility -- such as abusive language or behavior -- then you can express your concerns IF ASKED. Otherwise, let them live their lives. I say this because usually people are unable to hear criticism when it is unsolicited. Don't meddle in their affairs. Perhaps they will have a happy, life-long marriage. It is their life, not yours.

DEAR HARRIETTE: With the blessing of my husband, we opened our house to a female friend of mine, and she has been staying with us for the past three months. I am happy she is staying with us because she helps me watch my two children while I work, and the added bonus is that my husband and I are able have date night on a regular basis without paying for a baby sitter.

My friend asked if she can have next weekend off because she is planning to go out of town. There's a conflict because my husband and I have plans that same weekend, and it's too late find a baby sitter. Our plans were made around my friend being home to watch our children. Because my friend is staying with us, do you think I am taking advantage of her? -- Open House, South Orange, N.J.

DEAR OPEN HOUSE: The big question is whether you made a clear agreement with your friend that in exchange for living with you, she would provide these services. If so, you are not taking advantage of her -- you were clear in your communication about what the terms of her stay would be. Still, it makes sense that she would sometimes want to take time off.

Talk to her about the upcoming conflict. Perhaps she can delay her trip a week. If not, do whatever you would normally do for child care before she came. Talk through the terms of her stay moving forward -- how long does she plan to be there, what her duties will be, etc. Clarity helps resolve conflicts quickly.