DEAR HARRIETTE: I am having a hard time keeping the lines of communications open with a friend who is going through a tough time in her life. In the past 18 months, her mother and oldest sister died. In addition, her middle sister has serious health issues. I call her on a regular basis just to see how she is doing, but my phone calls always end up going to voice mail, and this has been going on for the past six months.
To my surprise, recently she called and we talked for about four hours. She told me that she appreciated my voice mail messages and she apologized for not calling back in a timely manner. I would like to talk to my friend more often because I think she is a great person and I understand she is going through a tough time in her life. Is there anything I can do to keep the lines of communications open? -- Friend in Need, Chicago
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: Stop thinking about the past. Your friend just reached out and rekindled your friendship. Call her again and invite her to go out or just talk. Don't push her, though. Her reaching out proves that she is taking baby steps to reconnect.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend does not want to marry me, and I don't know how to respond to her saying no to my proposal. We have been living together for six years, and I really love her. She doesn't want to "ruin our happy home" by getting married. Do I break up this happy home, or do I leave to find a woman who is interested in getting married. -- Put a Ring on It, New York City
DEAR PUT A RING ON IT: Herein lies a challenge in what a prominent minister I know calls "navel gazing." When you become intimate and live together before getting married, you neutralize the need to marry, at least in many people's eyes. Back in the "day," couples felt they were violating either a spiritual or social law by living together. For the most part, that thinking is long gone.
Unfortunately, couples sometimes end up where you are. It is tough to create an ultimatum when you didn't from the start. Instead, what you can do is to give serious thought to why you want to be married. What about creating a marriage appeals to you? What kind of a life do you want to have with your girlfriend? If you can figure out how to describe the life you want to build with her and the value of the security that marriage can offer to that vision, you may be able to persuade her.
Should you leave? That depends on your goals. If your departure is singularly because she will not marry you even though she intends to stay committed to you, you have a dilemma. You already almost have all that you want. Ultimately, you must weigh your options and decide if your initial compromise is something you can live with (remaining unmarried but as a family). If you believe you will resent her or not want to have children with her while unmarried or not fully trust her, leave. It is important to partner with someone who shares your values.