Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Overwhelmed by Birthday Outpouring

DEAR HARRIETTE: On my birthday, I was overwhelmed by the number of messages and calls I got, and I ended up not responding to some. Should I respond to these messages now? It is nearly a week after my birthday, and it seems futile to respond days later, but I want to let everyone know their messages were appreciated. -- Bad Texter, Boston

DEAR BAD TEXTER: It is never too late to express gratitude. Do take the time to send a quick note to your friends who reached out to you and say thank you for their thoughtfulness. Apologize for being tardy in responding. Add that you feel so fortunate to have people who care about you.

No need to say that the huge outpouring during your birthday overwhelmed you. Just say thanks, and offer your good wishes for them and their lives.

Read more in: Holidays & Celebrations | Etiquette & Ethics

DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-girlfriend is a little too invested in my family. My mother regularly texts her, and I get unnerved when I see her name pop up on my mom's screen. I haven't brought my new girlfriend home because of my mother's close relationship with my ex. Do I just ignore the fact that they are still in contact? My ex and I do not speak. -- Unnecessary BFFs, Denver

DEAR UNNECESSARY BFFS: You and your mother need to get on the same page. Visit her by yourself, and ask her if you can have a heart-to-heart talk. Honestly explain to her that it makes you uncomfortable that she and your ex are close. Acknowledge that you did appreciate how welcoming she was to this woman, but remind her that you are not in a relationship with her now, and you are not even speaking to each other.

Make it clear to your mother that you have a girlfriend whom you would like to bring around to meet your mom, but you have hesitated because your mother is so enmeshed with your ex. Ask your mother to sever or at least reduce her interaction with your ex so that she can create space for your new girlfriend. Further, make it clear to her that you do not want her sharing anything about your new girlfriend with your ex.

Just so you know, this situation is not as uncommon as you may think. Especially if you dated your ex for a long while and she spent considerable time with your mother, it is understandable that they developed a relationship. Still, you really do need your mother to honor your life as it is today. I will add that you should be mindful of whom you bring home. Your mother has already shown you that whomever you bring will be welcomed with open arms. Be conscious and intentional about who deserves to meet your family.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting